iPhone App Store Software for Business: Feast or Famine?

Need software for your corporate iPhone? Apple's App Store will whet your appetite, but ultimately will leave you hungry. We show off several free and commercial applications that might find a home on your trusty new smartphone.

CIOs and IT managers really know what they want when it comes to equipping their employees with iPhones, and for the most part, they've gotten their wish. Now that iPhones are popping up in the workplace, it's only natural users will want to personalize them with software from Apple's new App Store. Sure, plenty of software is written for consumer users; but is there anything worthwhile for the businessperson? Yes—but you may have to dig around a little bit.

Note: Whenever possible, we link to Web-based URLs, however some links require iTunes to view.

Making one of the strongest runs at enterprise users so far is Salesforce Mobile. Meant as a supplemental rather than a stand-alone tool for the iPhone, this application requires the user to have an Unlimited Edition Salesforce license or a Mobile License for use with an Enterprise or Professional Edition account. Since Salesforce Mobile stores data right on your phone, you can access your customer information without a wireless connection.

Additionally, any third-party apps created on the company's development platform, Force.com, can also be deployed on the iPhone. Before you rush out to download Salesforce Mobile, be aware that many users are complaining that the app lacks the ability to edit data, and they criticize installation issues which is surprising since this isn't Salesforce's first foray into mobile apps.

Another big contender in the App Store's business category is Oracle's business intelligence (BI) offering, Business Indicators [iTunes link]. Like Salesforce Mobile, it's free to download but requires an Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition Plus and Oracle Business Intelligence Applications, Fusion Edition to use. Once installed, it promises to deliver information on "pre-defined and customized" metrics, analytics and reports.

The Omni Group has created a mobile version of OmniFocus, the robust task-management system aimed at professionals. Available for $19.99, OmniFocus for iPhone synchronizes with its desktop counterpart via MobileMe and can also be used as a stand-alone version. OmniFocus lets you create tasks and lists, then uses the iPhone's location awareness tools to point out what tasks you can accomplish based on where you are. A few users are reporting problems with the OmniFocus app, with most issues apparently related to syncing.

Enterprise users who don't want to pony up money large amounts of money for a single application can assemble their own collection of work-related apps at little to no cost just by digging around a bit.

If you also support other smartphones, be sure to read our recommendations: Six Free BlackBerry Downloads You Don't Want to Miss and Seven Fantastic Free Windows Mobile Apps.

For instance, there's no shortage of apps for business travelers. In what's likely the first in a series, Frommer's has released its Guides to San Francisco and New York [iTunes links], that provide maps and up-to-the-minute information on the 'cities' dining, hotels, nightlife and attractions. There are also plenty of apps in the Navigation category [iTunes link] that provide maps and public transportation schedules for several major metropolitan cities including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Berlin, Germany.

Once you get where you're going, use the free app from Hotels.com to decide where to stay for the night. As you travel, use Expense2GO to keep an ongoing expense report, which, incidentally, synchronizes with Salesforce CRM. Overseas travelers will appreciate the App Store's Education category [iTunes link], which is packed with phrasebooks, translation dictionaries and study guides in several languages.

There are also plenty of business-oriented apps for people who never leave the home office. ZeptoPad is a handy mind mapping tool. Use it to take notes and record impromptu brainstorming sessions, then e-mail it to yourself or others as a reminder of the conversation. Or simply record the entire session using QuickVoice, a voice recorder with a slick interface and several useful features, including pause record, pause play and finger scrolling through files.

If it's a to-do list you need, you can't do better than Todo by Appigo. Though it's not free, like many of the other to-do list apps, this one integrates so well into the iPhone, you'll never know it didn't fall from the Apple tree. Use Todo alone, or sync it with one of the popular Web-based to-do list solutions like Remember The Milk or Toodledo. For a no-frills—and free—checklist, try the similarly named To-Do.

All the software at the App Store can be downloaded to a corporate iPhone via iTunes. Instructions for deploying iTunes and installing applications are in Apple's Enterprise Deployment Guide [PDF].

Although the number of consumer-oriented solutions in the App Store clearly outweigh what's available for business users, as the iPhone becomes more widely adopted in the enterprise, the number of useful apps for the professional is likely to grow exponentially.

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