by Thomas Wailgum

Why Apple i-Anything Is a Non-Issue for CIOs and Corporate America

Jan 11, 20075 mins

You might think with all the media frenzy over Steve Jobs’ announcement the other day that Apple had found a cure for cancer or brought peace to the world or solved the global warming problem. In fact, he (and his company) did none of those.

What Jobs did do was introduce a sleek mobile phone that can play movies and music, and surf the Web. In a stainless steel nutshell, that’s about it.

While Apple zealots surely rejoiced at the news, a collective yawn rose from the CIO ranks, those IT staffers who manage the fleets of enterprise devices, and the rest of the white- and blue-collar world who rely on mobile devices to get their jobs done. (And, of course, a sigh of relief could be heard from the RIM folks all the way up in Waterloo, Canada, because they know the BlackBerry will still be safely ensconced as the knowledge worker’s No. 1 best buddy.)

While the Apple iPhone has many things going for it — an exceptionally cool form-factor tops the list  — there are so many ways in which it’s not poised to explode (like the iPod has), especially in corporate IT departments.

Here are just a couple reasons why that is so.

Corporate America Doesn’t Use Macs. It’s a simple fact. Macs and Apple-related products are usually just too different and too expensive for most companies, and Apple hasn’t been able to infiltrate the corporate PC domain. The iPhone runs the Mac OS, and according to a report on the iPhone from Jack Gold, founder and principal analyst at researcher J. Gold Associates, “this is a major constraint, since few third-party application vendors (for example, Good Technologies for a push e-mail client) runs on the Mac.” (See our story on “The Great OS Experiment” for more on the OS debate.)

Device Availability. The iPhone is still in the advanced prototype phase. Apple says it should be ready to go by June for U.S. customers.

Single Source and High Cost. Right now, the iPhone is available only through Cingular, and the top model is selling for $599. (Hey, for that price, I can get a PlayStation3 … if one was available). According to Gold’s report, “even if the price were cut in half from $600 to $300, that is a pretty steep price for a phone device these days, even one with additional features. How many consumers are willing to pay that much for a device, and then also have to pay $40-$80 per month additional for services?”

In addition, Gold wonders in his report just who the target audience is for the device, because, historically, $300-plus mobile devices have not sold well in the consumer realm.  “In the past,” Gold writes, “most high-end phones have been sold to business users who were willing to pay for a fancy phone with capabilities they wanted. But these users almost universally demand connectivity to corporate systems, especially push e-mail and Outlook integration. How well the iPhone does at integrating to these systems remains to be tested.”

Software Limitations. The iPhone can’t open Microsoft Office documents. (But, really, who even uses those anymore?)

“A Delicate Flower.” The iPhone is beautiful, like a delicate piece of china. No argument there. However, we all know what happens to a delicate piece of china when you drop it. Crash! As The New York Times’ technology guru David Pogue points out in his “preview” of the device, “You may worry about putting all your digital eggs into one losable, droppable, glass-front basket.” For those IT staffers reading this, just remember how many handhelds and cell phones were dropped or damaged last year.

Video on Small Screen. Please don’t confuse me with the Cranky Old Guy, but video on a small screen still doesn’t work that well for me. And I just love the fact that the iPhone is being touted as a “wide screen” iPod. What? I’m sorry, but when the term “wide screen” is used, I’m usually thinking about a movie theater or a 50-inch plasma TV. Not 3.5 inches’ worth of viewing pleasure.

Pending Litigation. Cisco announced on Wednesday that it was suing Apple to stop it from using the name iPhone, because that name is a registered trademark of Cisco’s Linksys division. The companies have been in negotiations for two years over whether Apple would license the name from Cisco. Apparently, Apple decided to go ahead anyway.

In the end, it’s more than likely that Apple execs don’t want their products and services to go “corporate,” which seems perfectly plausible when you look at Apple’s anti-PC ad campaign — you know, the nerdy guy in the bad suit talking with the hip, young kid. In all of the ads, the dweeby older guy (the staid PC) always ends up looking like a moron, and the hip twentysomething (the Mac) always seems bewildered by the older guy’s eccentric behavior. I wonder, if this time, the tables might have turned just a bit.

UPDATE: My colleague, Ben Worthen, author of the Net Effect blog, thought my post was all wrong. Read his take on the Apple iPhone here. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Let us know.