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iPhone to gain better Exchange, Lotus Notes support at SDK event


Following months of beta testing, Apple Inc. next week will address one of the key weakness of its iPhone handset by introducing improved support for enterprise level e-mail platforms from Microsoft and IBM, according to one Wall Street analyst.

In a note to investors on Thursday, American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu cited "industry and developer sources" who say the Cupertino-based firm will use a portion of its media presentation next Thursday to announce improvements to the touch-screen handset's ability to work with Microsoft's Exchange server and IBM's Lotus Notes software.

"If true (which we believe is), this will prove key in having more enterprises and SMB adopt iPhone as their mobile platform," the analyst wrote. "What isn't as clear to us is how Apple will accomplish this, whether this is from internal development (most likely), third-parties including Microsoft (next likely) with its ActiveSync technology, or Research in Motion Blackberry Connect (possible but less likely), or a combination of two or more."

The iPhone's limited support of enterprise-level email solutions has been the subject of much criticism from business mobile phone users, as they must manually "pull" email messages from their corporate mail networks onto the handset. By contrast, Research in Motion's Blackberry smartphones are capable of automatically "pushing" the contents of a user's corporate email account to their embedded email applications. As such, the iPhone has struggled to wiggle its way into the workplace.

"We do not think it will be easy to replicate the robustness of Blackberry push e-mail, but nonetheless, we view improvements as positive," Wu added in his note to clients. "Other enhancements we are picking up including improved security, better support of VPNs, and enterprise applications such as CRM."

While details surrounding Apple's plans for improved Exchange support are limited, several bits of information have recently surfaced on IBM's intent to support its Lotus email and calendar applications on the iPhone.

Specifically, it's said that IBM will offer its Lotus Notes e-mail package for both the iPhone and iPod touch. The software will reportedly be free for users who already have a Lotus Web-access license and start at $39 per year for new users.

In addition, IBM also plans to release Lotus Notes and its free Lotus Symphony "productivity" package — which includes documents, spreadsheets and other Microsoft Office-like software — for Apple's Mac computer line.