Is it just me, or has the Apple iPhone invaded like a horde of locusts descending on a Nebraska corn field? It's everywhere I look. I get email from Apple about it; our Windows IT Pro authors are writing about it; I see ads on TV while I'm watching a baseball game—or, worse yet, some fan sitting behind home plate at the game is talking on one and waving at the camera. At least it's good to know the iPhone does work as a phone; that's not a feature of it that anyone is talking much about.
The topic turned to the iPhone in a recent conversation with Azaleos CTO Keith McCall. The question is whether it's useful in a business environment: Will it be adopted by business professionals, or is it just another cool Apple toy? Well, according to McCall, "We're finding pretty much across the board in all of our customers that at least one person in that company has purchased an iPhone. Typically it's an executive in the company—a vice president, a CIO, a CEO—and they're basically going to their IT department and saying, 'You know what, I've got this new device, I want it to work. Support me.'" So, even though its connectivity with Exchange isn't ideal, it is finding its way into corporations; as McCall put it, "It really is a top-down decision."
Still, McCall doesn't see business execs giving up their existing devices. "The functionality \[of iPhone\] is nowhere near as rich as that offered by a RIM BlackBerry or a Windows Mobile device," McCall said. "I think what you'll see is people using the iPhone as an auxiliary device."
The omnipresence of the iPhone is really just the latest symptom of the growing pool of mobile devices—BlackBerry, Motorola Q, Palm Treo, HP iPAQ, and tons more—and the IT department has to find a way to support them all. Originally, Azaleos customers reported that about 5 percent of their email base wanted to connect to Exchange via a mobile device; that's now gone to over 15 percent—in just three years. For Azaleos, that's a driving factor in developing new products and features.
In response to customer demand, the company's latest release is OneServer for MobileXchange, which supports Research in Motion's BlackBerry. OneServer is an appliance that keeps data safe behind the company firewall, with a managed services model. In developing the new BlackBerry support, Azaleos had four main points in mind:
- secure device access to Exchange
- high availability for BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)
- failover in case of BES failure
- reporting and monitoring functionality for IT
And, by the way, Azaleos OneServer with MobileXchange is ready to support iPhones through IMAP to connect to Exchange Server. Because iPhone doesn't support Exchange ActiveSync, IMAP is currently your only choice for over-the-air synchronization with Exchange. Although IMAP isn't the most secure protocol, McCall notes that it's unlikely to "create a huge security hole in customers' infrastructures." Azaleos posted a blog entry about getting the iPhone to work with Exchange, which you can find here.
OneServer with MobileXchange also supports Windows Mobile, which could make it the solution your IT department needs to support the variety of mobile devices in your organization. You can find out more about the company and its products on the Azaleos Web site.
So, readers out there in the IT world, is mobile device management causing you headaches? Have you worked with Azaleos products and could tell your fellow IT pros how they work? Are you getting requests to support the iPhone? Post a comment to tell us what you think.