The Enterprise iPhone?

Given anticipation over release of SDKs (Software Development Kits, or interfaces) for the iPhone, it’s not surprising that Sun decided to jump on the bandwagon as soon as it could. Barely 24 hours after Apple released the specs for the SDK, and made the long-awaited promise for Microsoft Exchange connectivity, Sun announced that it would port the Java ME JDK to the iPhone.

According to Sun Java group marketing VP Eric Klein, the 24-hour delay in Sun’s announcement was attributable to the fact that it, like everybody else in the world, had to wait in line to pore through the specs once Apple released them. Although Sun has worked with Apple to port the Java 5 stack to Mac OS X, it received no advance word of what Apple had up its sleeves.

Under terms of Apple’s release of the SDK is that developers pay $99 to join Apple’s development program, applications for the iPhone are offered only through Apple’s iPhone App Store, developers must fork over a 30% royalty to Apple for any end user licenses, but they also get to set their own pricing. That gave Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer another good excuse for not porting the Silverlight multi-platform rich Internet run time to run on the iPhone – for now. “Just noticed new runtime announced today/yesterday. They charge more money than everyone else on the planet. Good business if they can make it. May mean Apple’s not welcoming royalty free runtimes. We’ll have to wait and see,” when questioned by Guy Kawasaki at Microsoft’s MIX conference this past week (as transcribed by an attendee).

Yet Sun’s more than willing to hop at the chance of porting Java ME, as they’ve concluded that Apple has no problem with third parties, like Sun, charging bupkis. Or at least Apple has little problem with a platform that’s, in effect, the enemy of thy enemy.

With the level of hype around Apple’s announcement, there’s been no shortage of comment around the press and blogosphere. Quoted in a CRN ChannelWeb article, wireless market analyst Jack Gold mentioned that security remains an overriding issue for a platform that until now has been aimed at consumers. He wondered what kinds of management tools is Apple planning to put in iPhones, noting that’s a non-issue for RIM Blackberries. And he added concerns over lack of encryption and protections for business users who lose their iPhones. In a ZDNet blog, Linux Magazine senior technology editor Jason Perlow ranted that Apple is only about 25 years late in waking up to the enterprise. He termed the iPhone SDK and Exchange connectivity “a good start,” but that Apple would have to think more openly further up its stack – like allowing virtualization of Mac OS X – before he’d take Apple seriously as an enterprise player.

All this reminds us of the gulf between consumer and enterprise systems. It reinforces the fact that technology innovation today is coming from the consumer side – witness that the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as taken the place of Comdex. And it provides fresh reminder that what’s cool on the consumer side still has structural and cultural issues making the transition to enterprise. Security is just the tip of the iceberg (enterprises need more than a disabler when devices are lost). For starters, there are issues of licensing that show how some players get it and some don’t (as Josh Greenbaum recently pointed out regarding Google).

Nonetheless, just as PCs snuck through the back door, executives who try to convince you of their hipness and gadgetheads who simply like to remind you of what they really are, are providing fresh evidence that the iPhone can’t be kept out of the enterprise. The question is whether Apple will let itself in.

One thought on “The Enterprise iPhone?”

  1. This is just PR exercise by Sun. They know very well that outside frameworks are not allowed according to development agreement. Developers can only use Apple supplied libraries and published APIs. So that would prevent any other developer from using JVM. Especially when there can not be any backround process outside of what Apple supplies.
    Apple has already said no to Flash. So they are trying to use media to force Steve Jobs to back down.

    Not going to happen.

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