In the space of a decade, Apple’s iPhone has gone from being a consumer craze to the single product that some say most affects the design and operation of enterprise IT, turning a controlled, top-down environment into something far more open.
“I think the iPhone was probably one of the most impactful pieces of technology to come into the IT world since computing,” said VMware VP and chief information security officer Alex Tosheff, commenting on the 10th anniversary of the Apple iPhone, which was introduced on Jan. 9, 2007.
VMware VP and chief information security officer Alex Tosheff: Feeling iPhone's impact
The iPhone is a lot of different things – it’s a one-device personal computing revolution, design icon, and catastrophic drain on our attention spans, but those who aren’t in IT might not realize the degree to which it has shaped computing on a grander scale.
“I was one of those people in line waiting for it, the original iPhone,” said Needham Bank CIO James Gordon. ““At that time, it was not ready for prime-time, enterprise-wide [use] for a whole host of reasons, chiefly being no Exchange email support.”
That, to put it mildly, didn’t last. The advent of the iPhone 3G, running iOS 2.0, in 2008 brought ActiveSync and push email support, which put the device front and center for the IT departments.
Before the iPhone, the main challenge for enterprise mobility centered on email – a capability largely owned by BlackBerry, whose BlackBerry Enterprise Server was the original mobile device management product.
At least at first, iPhones were more work than BlackBerries, according to Tosheff, in part because there’s so much more that the iPhone and other smartphones are capable of.
“Apple’s not canonically an enterprise company. BlackBerry had the exchange server and all that.” This made securing devices a bit more straightforward, he added, but those devices were much more limited in what they could accomplish and the user experience “wasn’t great.”
Supporting iPhones in particular and Apple products in general, according to Kevin More, CIO of the healthcare and human services non-profit May Institute, is still not exactly a walk in the park, but the rewards are usually worth it.
“They’re very hard to manage in the enterprise: Apple doesn’t make it easy on the iPhone side and playing nice with Active Directory on the desktop side. It’s definitely a challenge,” he said. “But the level of ‘it just works’ is definitely appealing. They’re always very elegant and a lot of thought has been put into the Apple design whether it be an iPhone or a computer.”
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