CIO Charlie Pelton won't be bringing Apple's iPhone into his mortgage company's network anytime soon. Pelton, of Market Street Mortgage, expects some of his end users will want the endlessly hyped consumer device, but with the iPhone lacking support for Windows ActiveSync Pelton worries about providing secure access to Microsoft Exchange email.
"Until they get the Windows ActiveSync worked out we're not going to support it, because we don't allow forwarding of business emails to third parties or outside addresses," Pelton says. "If Apple and Microsoft work something out where they support Exchange then, yeah, it will be a secure device."
Some published reports say Apple will indeed sort out the licensing issues necessary to make the iPhone compatible with Microsoft Exchange Server, though no official announcement has been made yet.
If that does happen, Pelton says he'd probably support the iPhone if employees bought it themselves. But Market Street isn't likely to put any iPhones on the company expenses, given that it costs up to $599 (£299), compared to about $250 for BlackBerries, Pelton says.
Market Street purchases BlackBerries and similar mobile devices for managers, but other employees who want one must pay for their own. Even BlackBerries, with their user-friendly keypads, aren't used much by employees, he said.
"Most people think they're going to use their devices more than they actually do after they get them," Pelton says. "It sounds and looks really cool on TV and in the websites. Most of our folks don't really use (even the BlackBerry) to send messages."
While Apple's music, phone and internet device may seem tailormade for the consumer market, there's no doubt business users and IT executives are paying attention to the iPhone.
IT executives across the country are being deluged with inquiries from employees who want to know whether they can use the iPhone to access work email, the Wall Street Journal wrote last week.
CIO Scott Mills of the nonprofit Academy for Educational Development, says he plans to buy a couple iPhones so the IT staff can test them "and see what we're up against". The US Academy supports BlackBerries and Windows Smartphones, but wants to see if the iPhone will integrate with email through internet message access protocol (IMAP) or post office protocol (POP).
"Everything I've read (about the iPhone) to this point isn't giving me good vibes," Mills said.
Many Academy employees travel to third-world countries, and Mills says he's concerned that AT&T's GSM network won't be robust enough to support extensive roaming overseas.
Pelton and Mills said they have not faced a stampede of end users demanding support for the iPhone. But both expect interest from employees after the phone and music player becomes available.
"Our users do push us on the consumer-based things, like Skype and IM," Mills says. But one thing Mills is not concerned about is securing the iPhone.
"I don't see it as being any more (difficult) than any of the hundreds of PDAs, cell phones, and laptops we have to deal with," he says. "I don't see it as being any more of a liability than anything else."
The Apple iPhone goes on sale in the US today. A European launch is expected later this year. In the meantime, rumours have grown that Vodafone will be the mobile operator to win the carrier contract to supply the device to UK consumers, equivalent to the agreement Apple has with AT&T in the US.