by Al Sacco

Apple, IBM to Bring Lotus Notes to the iPhone…and, Perhaps, Closer to Business Users’ Pockets

Jan 17, 20082 mins
Enterprise Applications

Most IT folks agree that the iPhone is not yet suited for deployment in corporate environments, but Apple’s uber smartphone may soon get one step closer to becoming a viable business device.

IBM plans to announce a mobile version of its Lotus Notes software for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch at next week’s Lotusphere 2008 conference in Orlando, Fla., according to the Associated Press.

The software will need to be employed in conjunction with IBM’s Domino e-mail server, and users with current Lotus Web-access licenses can get it at no charge. New users will need to shell out $39.99 a year.

Image of the Apple iPhone onscreen keyboard

A few weeks back, I blogged about AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson’s announcement that a 3G Apple iPhone will become available in 2008, and I suggested that a corporate e-mail client for the device could soon follow. Though details on the Lotus Notes for iPhone software are scarce at this point, the announcement is certainly going to catch the attention of enterprise smartphone users who’ve had their eyes on Apple’s mobile prize since its release, as well as the IT folks who may soon be supporting it.

Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes users can already connect to corporate e-mail accounts via iPhone, but administrators have to enable certain settings in their infrastructure or separate third-party applications are required. And real push functionality is still not available.

In my opinion, the leading factor that’s currently keeping the iPhone from being a suitable business device is a lack of security-oriented features like data encryption and remote password change, device lock and data wipe functionality. (Forrester Research recently offered up 10 reasons IT should not support the iPhone, and security was number one on their list, as well.) It will be interesting to see to what extent the Lotus Notes software for the Apple iPhone addresses these concerns.

It remains to be seen whether or not an IBM/Apple partnership in the enterprise mobile space can give Microsoft or Research In Motion a run for their money—or even get them jogging. But IBM has some 135 million Lotus users worldwide, according to the AP—myself included—and if the Lotus Notes for iPhone software can convince some IT departments that the device is suitable and safe for business use, it may not be long before others follow their lead.