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Thursday, December 13, 2007, 03:05 pm PT (06:05 pm ET)

Analyst: iPhone simply isn't meant for enterprise

Although many executives are snapping up iPhones and expecting corporate support, there are many reasons the Apple device shouldn't be used in large-scale business, says a new report from Forrester Research.

Providing a list of ten main reasons, analyst Benjamin Gray notes that some of the most familiar complaints remain unresolved at the end of 2007, including a lack of Exchange support for many businesses' enterprise servers and a complete lack of native programs versus thousands for BlackBerries, Palm Treos, and Windows Mobile devices.

But the real issue is a lack of manageability for the iPhone, Gray explains. As there is currently no way to encrypt the data on an iPhone or remotely block access to the information if the handset is lost or stolen, any information on one of these devices can be easily accessible to a thief — especially as most users are likely to leave their iPhones without a password lock for convenience's sake, the expert says.

Conversely, virtually every major smartphone from other manufacturers allows them fine-grained control, allowing them to set the criteria for a password and even to wipe a phone's memory clear if necessary.

The costs both of buying the phone and maintaining it are also major barriers. The price of Apple's phone is twice that of the BlackBerry Curve and lacks the bulk corporate discount frequently needed to clinch large-scale deals, Gray notes. As most iPhones are locked to a single carrier, this similarly forces businesses to pay for expensive roaming fees rather than switch the phone temporarily to a foreign provider.

The lack of a user-replaceable battery and a tactile-feedback keyboard could also prove inconveniences for an enterprise role.

There are niches that the iPhone can fill even at this early stage, according to the report. While Microsoft's tablet PC concept is often bulky and costly for all but a few industries, the iPhone's relatively low price and small size may make it ideal for these tasks. Field workers who need access to some remote information or directions through Google Maps may also appreciate the purchase.

Apple's debut cellphone is likely to improve over time, including third-party app support in February, Gray is careful to mention. But in its primary form, the iPhone is running contrary to the direction of most offices, which are looking to slim down — not expand — their choice of mobile equipment.

"The current enterprise model is broken," the Forrester analyst says. "IT organizations have been stretched to support whatever platforms their employees have brought into the company. But with a diverse selection of mobile platforms — including BlackBerry, Linux, Palm OS, Symbian, Windows CE, Windows Mobile, and now Mac OS X — IT can’t be expected to support each and every operating system."