updated 10:10 am EDT, Tue April 24, 2007
ATT iPhone Business Pitch
AT&T (formerly Cingular) hopes to expand the appeal of the iPhone to businesses, sources near the cell provider claim. Although the iPhone has been typically promoted as an entertainment device, the carrier has reportedly changed its billing and support systems for business to handle the Apple device for companies that want to deploy it on a wider scale. An AT&T representative declined to provide additional details, but the news has nevertheless prompted a backlash from analysts, many of whom point to the phone's non-expandability as a red flag for businesses.
Experts primarily referred to the device's lack of third-party software, which was imposed by Apple as an attempt to control the experience but may ultimately limit the phone's appeal to businesses, which frequently depend on Office Mobile and similar tools for workers who travel often.
"Companies like to extend corporate apps to the mobile space," said Current Analysis mobile phone researcher Avi Greengart. "And in order to do that, you need an open OS." He didn't rule out the possibility of software being added to help the iPhone's appeal in workplaces but warned not to expect any by the June release date.
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney echoed the sentiment, noting that the choice of extra software for RIM's BlackBerry and the plurality of Windows Mobile smartphones made them better choices. He pointed out that hardware design, however, was at least as much of a problem for businesses. Most of the iPhone's design philosophy wouldn't be helpful to workers.
The lack of a replaceable battery is a potentially fatal flaw. "You'd be crazy to buy without that [option]," Dulaney commented, also noting that a separate media decoding processor might consume more energy than the sole CPU found in most phones.
The on-screen touch keypad might also make it difficult to dial while on the road, he said.
The collective criticism follows a similarly scathing response from Microsoft, which dismissed the iPhone as effectively useless to companies that needed extra software, suggesting instead that the handset would be a better choice as a media player than a productivity tool. Greengart agreed in his newer analysis, saying that companies who sign up with AT&T's business plans for the iPhone might be inadvertently pampering their employees with a media player they don't need.
"Could a company deploy this?" he asked. "They could, but they'd be paying for storage and for something intended for use as a consumer device."