Apple has begun the metamorphosis of the iPhone from a hyped, must-have gadget into potentially a business weapon of choice that could eat into the lucrative push email and business connectivity markets enjoyed by Nokia and RIM’s BlackBerry device.
Long-time rivals Apple and Microsoft have reached an agreement to offer built-in support for Microsoft’s business email server product Exchange on the iPhone to boost the firepower available to mobile professionals.
Last night, Apple previewed its iPhone 2.0 software, which is due for release this June.
The software includes the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) and new enterprise features. These included support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, which is designed to provide secure, over-the-air push email, contacts and calendars, and remote wipe, and also Cisco IPsec VPN for encrypted access to private corporate networks.
With the iPhone SDK, third-party developers will be able to build native applications for the iPhone with a rich set of APIs, including programming interfaces for Core OS, Core Services, Media and Cocoa Touch technologies.
The iPhone SDK will allow developers to create amazing applications that leverage the iPhone’s groundbreaking multi-touch user interface, animation technology, large storage, built-in three-axis accelerometer and geographical location technology to deliver truly innovative mobile applications.
Apple has licensed Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft and is building this right into the iPhone so that the iPhone will connect out-of-the-box to Microsoft Exchange Servers 2003 and 2007 for secure over-the-air push email, contacts, calendars and global address lists.
Built-in Exchange ActiveSync support also enables security features such as remote wipe, password policies and auto-discovery.
The iPhone 2.0 software supports Cisco IPsec VPN to ensure the highest level of IP-based encryption is available for transmission of sensitive corporate data, as well as the ability to authenticate using digital certificates or password-based, multi-factor authentication.
The addition of WPA2 Enterprise with 802.1x authentication enables enterprise customers to deploy iPhone and iPod touch with the latest standards of protection for Wi-Fi networks.
“We’re excited about creating a vibrant third-party developer community with potentially thousands of native applications for iPhone and iPod touch,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.
“iPhone’s enterprise features combined with its revolutionary multi-touch user interface and advanced software architecture provide the best user experience and the most advanced software platform ever for a mobile device.”
The iPhone 2.0 software provides a configuration utility that allows IT administrators to easily and quickly set up many iPhones, including password policies, VPN setting, installing certificates, email server settings and more.
Once the configuration is defined, it can be easily and securely delivered via web link or email to the user. To install, all the user has to do is authenticate with a user ID or password, download the configuration and tap install. Once installed, the user will have access to all their corporate IT services.
The iPhone 2.0 software release will contain the App Store, a new application that lets users browse, search, purchase and wirelessly download third-party applications directly onto their iPhone or iPod touch.
The notion of a pact between long-time rivals Microsoft and Apple has been rumoured for months but was considered too good to be true. Terry Myerson, corporate vice-president in charge of Microsoft Exchange, says the idea is not that strange at all.
People like to think Microsoft and Apple are at opposite ends of the technology spectrum, but despite the perception of a Microsoft-Apple rivalry, today’s announcement is actually one in a long history of co-operation between the two companies.
“We started talking with Apple about licensing Exchange ActiveSync before the launch of the iPhone last year,” Myerson explains. “In fact, I met with Apple senior vice-president of worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller, almost daily for a period of two weeks to iron out the details of the agreement. The result is a true collaboration between Microsoft and Apple.
“We continue to compete with Apple in the computer arena and media player business. When it comes to mobile phones, Windows Mobile still delivers the premier mobile email experience for Microsoft Exchange Server, by delivering the Outlook experience on a mobile phone and with the most complete support for Exchange’s many enterprise device management policies.
“But, we also partner with many mobile device makers, including Apple, and believe that by making Exchange an open platform, ultimately, our customers and partners will be the beneficiaries.
“Overall however, Microsoft knows co-operation and collaboration among diverse companies, from technology to hardware to content providers, is becoming more commonplace. In today’s world, open innovation and collaboration is simply smart business; in tomorrow’s, it will be an absolute necessity,” Myerson said.
By John Kennedy