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Gartner reaps iPhone backlash after making business case

Mixed messages

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Analyst firm Gartner stuck its neck out in a raw bid for fame this week by writing to every comment-writer and saying: "Quote us!" - and then going on to slam the iPhone for not being a business tool.

Quoting Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney saying: "This is basically a cellular iPod with some other capabilities, and it's important that it be recognized as such," IDG writer Seth Weintraub listed a few points to show that this isn't even right.

Naturally, other writers joined in, most (like Pioneer Press writer Leslie Brooks Suzukamo) instantly finding good evidence that business users do indeed want iPhones. Quote from chief operating officer for La Breche Jacob Trippel - who hasn't yet held an iPhone in his hands, but "has great confidence that Apple has come up with the next great business tool."

But Pioneer did admit that there would be resistance: "On Tuesday ATT released pricing plans that start at $60 a month, but with no discounts for business customers." Ouch.

Russell Shaw at ZDNet has bought the Gartner story. His "Seven reasons why iPhone’s not fit for prime enterprise time" quotes Gartner's analysis verbatim:

  1. Apple’s “rudimentary” experience designing mobile devices specifically for the enterprise.
  2. Lack of support from mobile management and mobile security software utilities.
  3. Lack of compatibility with major business e-mail systems.
  4. An operating system not licensed to third-party hardware suppliers, resulting in no backup.
  5. No removable battery, creating the potential for increased support costs.
  6. Only one carrier operator (AT&T Wireless).
  7. The high price point, $499 for 4GB or $599 for 8GB.

At the FT, they agree, not by quoting pundits or offering opinion, but with raw data: "iPhone costs hit Apple shares" laconically noting: "Shares of Apple fell more than 2 per cent on Tuesday after Apple and AT&T revealed three new pricing plans for iPhone."

But Weintraub says: "This device can be good for companies" because of the business needs of smart phone users:

  • It is an iPhone, after all, with an emphasis on phone.
  • It offers e-mail - currently the most popular means of business communications.
  • There's an address/phone book for quick access to contacts.
  • It offers SMS, a quick way to contact other mobile phone users, and voice mail - both useful to road warriors.
  • There's a real Web browser - by far the most underpowered and underappreciated part of a mobile phone.
  • And it contains a slew of corporate-worthy apps, including a calendar, access to maps, spreadsheets and a document reader.

The phone doesn't support outside apps, as Apple has made clear. So what? says Weintraub: "Try telling your CEO the iPhone doesn't play well with your IT systems..."

The greatest irony, however, is probably the coincidence of a podcast from Jackie Fenn, vice president and Gartner fellow, which entirely goes off-message and urges business to adopt consumer tech: "By embracing and leveraging employee experimentation and experience with consumer technologies, enterprises can enjoy a significant addition to the resources they can apply to evaluating innovation," he says.

TMCNet quotes Ms Fenn in an enthusiastic outburst which pretty much torpedoes the rest of Gartner: "In the emerging world of 'permanent beta' innovation led by Web-native companies such as Google, the dominant approach is to throw a new capability out to potential users, see what they do with it, then figure out how to monetize it," Ms. Fenn said.

The quote continues: "This fertile breeding ground enables a raw idea to be refined rapidly and allows many applications for a new capability to be explored and evaluated in parallel, making it increasingly likely that significant new functionality that is relevant to enterprises will first arise in the consumer world."

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