CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- June 29, 2007 might seem like a distant memory at this point, but it was a day when thousands across the country vied to be the first iPhone user on the high-tech block. Months later--despite early network initialization and rebate issues--there's no denying that the Apple iPhone was a hit.
So much so that enterprise organizations--credit unions included--have heard from users who want their iPhones integrated into existing mobile infrastructures. Similar requests have poured in from consumers to their favorite Web sites and companies, asking for true iPhone-compatible pages and content.
Despite all the hoopla, two new reports by Forrester advised some pragmatic caution and implementation strategy before diving headfirst into full corporate adoption. "We don't consider [the iPhone] an enterprise-class mobile device," said Forrester's Benjamin Gray. "Despite this...the iPhone will find its way into many enterprise environments--if it hasn't already--because C-level executives are buying them and expecting support from IT."
This dichotomy puts IT in a bind of sorts. Current generations of the iPhone--while not enterprise-ready--will have to exist on networks simply due to their popularity. Gray said that there were several limitations for both IT and executives to consider before turning to the iPhone as their primary mobile device.
Its most glaring weakness arguably lies in its clearest strength: its uniqueness, Gray said.
The device's original operating system keeps the iPhone from syncing wirelessly with a personal computer or otherwise updating critical information (e-mail, contacts, calendars, notes, etc.) at intervals of less than 15 minutes, Gray said. This same operating system doesn't support third-party applications, including those created specifically for the credit union.
Data security also is a key. Unfortunately, Gray argued, the iPhone is simply not well suited for sensitive data at this time.
"There is no way for a company to natively secure the data on an iPhone with file or disk encryption," he said.
These same devices likewise lack the ability to be remotely wiped in the event of a loss or theft.
Moreover, unlike the widely used Blackberry and Treo, the iPhone is locked to a specific carrier--AT&T--and lacks a global network. Both are kisses of death for people and businesses dispersed geographically, Gray argued.
He also cites the device's non-removable battery, one quickly drained due to multimedia use like video, audio, and Web browsing inherent in the device.
Finally, it's important to recognize the Apple iPhone is a first-generation device--one not widely tested art the enterprise level--besides being plus very expensive ($400 retail, with no current bulk discounts) up front. Finally, while there's no mistaking the iPhone's coolness factor, there's likewise no true longitudinal or comparative data as to its effectiveness or usefulness for businesses.
On the other hand, it is an excellent, cost-effective alternative to tablet PCs, Gray said.
"Existing tablet customers could consider the iPhone as a less-costly alternative to the tablet for task-based workers who would benefit from the smaller form factor," the Forrester analyst said.
Moreover, the iPhone's fully functional Web interface is an enormous potential step in mobile banking, Forrester's Benjamin Ensor and Alexander Hesse stated in their report. The iPhone's true Web browser frees credit unions--and members--from traditional online banking software pared down to fit often-limited mobile Web interfaces.
"By rendering full Internet pages on a decently sized touch screen display that is easy to read and allows simple navigation, users can basically access their banks' full suites of online banking features and functionalities, the Forrester analysts say. "Mobile banking simply becomes 'online banking on the go.'"
Not surprisingly, several big banks have jumped aboard the iPhone mobile banking bandwagon. Among others, Bank of America, Germany's Postbank, and England's First Direct all have iPhone-ready, mobile banking solutions.
Ensor and Hesse expect the number of mobile bankers to grow in tandem with iPhone users. The device's simplicity, they reasoned, is a gateway to more advanced mobile functions.
"Just as Internet users became more confident with experience...as consumers gain experience with using the Internet on their mobile, some will start using more complex activities like mobile banking," the report read.