Don’t Expect Mass Enterprise iPhone Adoption in 2009

The iPhone has a lot of potential for enterprise use. It’s a powerful device, and it supports Exchange synchronization, and more and more, businesses are integrating Apple computers into their current IT loadout. Still, BlackBerry dominates the business market. Especially in more traditional corporate climates, the impetus required for a shift to Apple’s device isn’t there. At an organization I recently left, they were just undertaking BlackBerry adoption, and cautiously at that. Suggesting an iPhone solution would’ve been greeted by blank stares. Some involved in approving purchasing decisions wouldn’t even have known what one was. Yes, it is possible to be that insulated.

I still used my iPhone for work purposes, but not in a way that was fully integrated or supported by our in-house IT. It’s the type of thing that Forrester Research’s Michele Pelino sees as becoming more prevalent as we move in to 2009. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like the one I mention, according to Pelino, will see more of the iPhone, since their IT infrastructure is less strict, and open to a hodge podge of solutions supplemented by employees’ own equipment. Because of this, she sees iPhone adoption climbing to as much as 10 percent among SMBs.

SMBs are one thing, but what about large enterprise? Will the iPhone make inroads into this traditional bastion of BlackBerry users? Can they, when hardware is generally company-purchased, company-issued, and strictly mandated? According to Pelino, the Storm will reap the benefit of the large enterprise’s resistance to change. End users are clamoring for a touchscreen phone, and now they can provide one, without going outside of, or reexamining corporate mobile tech policies. The Storm, according to many accounts, doesn’t live up to the standards of the iPhone, but from a business standpoint, it’s a much more fiscally responsible solution, at least in the short term.

Bottom line? Don’t expect massive iPhone uptake from large corporations in 2009. Still, that doesn’t mean it’ll stay locked out forever. The upward trending SMB adoption bodes well for the iPhone down the line, in fact. Traditionally, smaller businesses anticipate the crest of tech trends, since they have the flexibility to do so. Enterprise-wide adoption is far easier on a smaller scale, so small companies are often incubators of big ideas that later sweep the business community. Especially when you consider that small businesses are career incubators as well. People often begin their professional lives at SMBs, and move on later to influential roles in larger companies. They bring with them their habits, working styles, and IT preferences, which can lead to innovation.

The groundwork is being laid, but as Pelino suggests, we probably won’t see major enterprise iPhone adoption in the coming year. Do expect, however, to see more offerings like KBOX from KACE, an iPhone management solution for those who are implementing enterprise-wide iPhone implmentation that allow companies to deploy, manage, and track handsets and users. KACE recognizes the growing appeal of the iPhone to business users, and are getting an early start at providing a framework for when big business catches up. Don’t expect any huge moves in corporate IT departments until after we’ve successfully emerged on the other side of the current economic situation, but if the iPhone continues to dominate the consumer market, look forward to big shifts when the dollars are there to spend.

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