iPhone 4.0: Serious Business Contender

As if RIM didn’t already have enough to worry about, Apple has unveiled the iPhone OS 4.0 -- and it’s adding enough new features for enterprise users, including mobile device management and SSL VPN support, that BlackBerry doesn’t seem like the only game in town anymore. Here’s what MSPs should know.

First, a disclaimer: I’m not attempting to provide a full rundown of iPhone OS 4.0’s features, since my colleague Dave Courbanou over at The VAR Guy has already provided just that. I’m going to zero in on the new enterprise features. So let’s take a look.

The biggest feature for solutions providers is the aforementioned mobile device management. In Apple’s own words, “[new] Mobile Device Management APIs can be integrated with third-party solutions to wirelessly configure and update settings, monitor compliance with corporate policies, and even wipe or lock managed iPhone devices.”

It’s absolutely concerning that they’re relying on third parties to provide the tools necessary to administrate iPhone fleets. But the functionality is there, and frankly, with Apple’s consumer focus, I doubt an internally-developed tool would be as robust as the no-doubt inbound solutions.

The other features include:

  • SSL VPN, usable to connect to corporate networks via VPN on Demand, and which will be supported by forthcoming Juniper and Cisco apps.
  • Enhanced data encryption using the individual’s iPhone passcode as an encryption key to protect data even when the device is compromised.
  • Improved mailboxes with support for multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts and compatibility with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and vastly improved e-mail attachment handling.
For my money, the most interesting new feature is the new capability for enterprises to host and automatically deploy iPhone apps directly to the devices over the air. This functionality means that iPhones can be customized for just about any purpose you can think of without needing to go through Apple - and MSPs can roll custom apps for customers.

So what do the MSPs in the audience think? Is this enough to make the iPhone a serious business device?

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