Is the iPhone Now as Enterprise Ready as the Android?

iphone-os-preview-business20100407.pngThe enterprise may now have what they have wanted for the iPhone. But now they have to decide if such a locked down device is control they want secede to Apple

We expect that Apple’s tight control over its hardware, software and content will not stop an enterprise from purchasing the device. But it may cause some to pause and consider a smartphone with the Android OS – built on an open-source model with many of the same enterprise features that will come with the iPhone OS 4.

In our post last week, we spoke with Ken Westin, CEO of ActiveTrak, who said the iPhone OS lacked multi-processing, SSL VPN, an and relied too much on MobileMe, making it troublesome for IT administrators. ActiveTrak allows for devices to be tracked if lost or stolen.

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It looks like Apple checked most of the items off Westin’s list except for one caveat. Multitasking work on the iPhone 3GS, its latest device but not the iPhone 3G.

That actually may help sell a lot more phones into the enterprise. IT will want the multitasking feature, primarily for security purposes. As Westin points out, it’s the multitasking that makes it possible for the ActiveTrak service to run in the background.

With multitasking, ActiveTrak would not have to do any social engineering as is required wit the current OS. Currently, ActiveTrak is disguised as a Safari icon on the iPhone. The application activates when the user accesses the Internet from the iPhone. If it is not accessed, the device can not be tracked.

But the Android has had multitasking capability since its inception so in this respect, it is not revolutionary for the iPhone to get such a feature.

As for control, could an enterprise lose access to iPhone apps? This is not likely but as we have seen with Flash, Apple will make uniform decisions about what content it allows. The Android offers an open marketplace that has none of the restrictions that Apple imposes.

Here’s what is included in the iPhone OS 4:

Multitasking

ReadWriteWeb’s Mike Melanson says the purists may not consider it multitasking but for most uses, it is close enough. He writes that multitasking, “for the most part, is handled by a double click on the home button, which pulls up a screen showing icons of all the apps currently hanging out in the background. Some, like Skype or Pandora, will actually be running, while others will simply be in a frozen state."

Is that enough for an app like ActiveTrak? He said that from what he has seen so far, yes, it will suffice. Bit it is not something that puts it ahead of the Android.

SSL VPN

SSL VPN is now supported in iPhone OS 4. Apps are expected from Juniper and Cisco that will support SSL VPN, which allows for better way to securely access the enterprise from a browser across any device.

Microsoft Exchange

Email on the iPhone is now up to speed with the rest of the market. The iPhone allows a user to set up multiple Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync accounts. It also works with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. Multiple email accounts may be pulled into one account or accounts may be viewed separately.

Data Wiping and Mobile Admin Control

IT administrators may now configure devices to update wirelessly. The device may be monitored to abide by corporate policies. It may be locked down if lost or the data may be wiped.

Wireless App Configuration

This would allow the control over what apps someone places on their device. According to Apple: “The iPhone OS 4 enables enterprises to securely host and wirelessly distribute in-house apps to employees over Wi-Fi and 3G. Apps can be updated without requiring users to connect to their computers.

One thing we don’t hear mentioned much is the lock down of the iPhone. Is it a major issue? It does mix into the whole scope of the app platform. So, we argue that it does. But, overall, we have to agree with the NextWeb. The difference between the iPhone and the Android in the enterprise might be best considered a draw:

“Wireless delivery of applications, great data encryption, Exchange Server support. When you’re in a business world, with today’s technology, these things become expected. These are no longer seen as value-added features of any OS, mobile or otherwise. Now, in fairness, Android OS is not at the top of the Enterprise game. But neither is Apple. For years, RIM has set the standard. Even today, other companies have a lot of work to do in order to catch up. I have to call this an even draw."

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