The iPhone Meets Managed Services

The iPhone Meets Managed Services

iPhoneIt took nearly a year, but managed service providers are finally announcing clear strategies to support Apple's iPhone with hosted email services. One prime example: SherWeb, an MSP that hosts Microsoft Exchange Server and BlackBerry Enterprise Server, says it plans to support iPhone synchronization with Exchange Server. It's the first of many iPhone-related announcements MSPmentor expects to hear from MSPs in the next few months.

SherWeb's announcement comes only a few days after Apple announced a new Software Development Kit (SDK) to help jump-start the market for iPhone business applications. The Apple announcement included plans to have iPhone support the Exchange ActiveSync Service. SherWeb did not, however, disclose how soon its Exchange services would support iPhone customers.

Portions of the press continue to speculate whether iPhone can overtake the BlackBerry in business markets. But that may be missing the point. BlackBerry is deeply entrenched in major corporations and its popularity shows no signs of slowing.

However, iPhone is a consumer hit that has spilled over into the corporate market and has found a niche in such IT organizations as DisneyLand. This occurred even though Apple did little to nothing with iPhone in the business market throughout 2007.

The managed services industry, Apple and Exchange Server have been on a collision course for several months. For instance:

  • Dozens of companies -- from Avaya to NetSuite -- announced application support for iPhone before Apple started targeting businesses with the device.
  • In recent months, managed service platform providers have turned their efforts to supporting Apple's platforms. Kaseya, for one, announced Mac OS X support a few days ago.
  • Many managed email service providers have been working overtime to embrace the Microsoft Online Service initiative, which bolsters Exchange Server, SharePoint and Dynamics for hosted situations.
It's unclear, however, how soon iPhone email support will turn into a high-margin opportunity for MSPs that host Exchange. Apple hopes to sell 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008, but the vast majority of those will likely involve consumer purchases.
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