The iPhone Has No Business In Business


The marketing coup Apple pulled off with the iPhone rates right up there with the launch of Windows 95. In both cases, early adopters seeking to be the first kids on the block to have the latest technology camped out in front of retail establishments to ensure they would go home happy. In Apple's case, the company was able to sell out a six-month supply of the product in just one week—showing that hype, when properly executed, does sell products.

FRANK J. OHLHORST
Can be reached via e-mail at fohlhorst@cmp.com.

One thing is certain, however: Little has changed in those 12 years between the launch of Windows 95 and the iPhone when it comes to marketing hype for a product, and little has changed when it comes to buyer's remorse.

While for the most part, buyers of the iPhone are still ecstatic about the device, those that have purchased one for business use are quickly finding the product limited. After all, the iPhone is a closed device. In other words, there are limited opportunities to develop applications to integrate the device into the enterprise.

That makes the iPhone little more than a nifty toy, at least when it comes to business use. But the hype does have benefits for the channel—namely, the resurgence of interest in mobile applications and business communications devices.

Hopefully, Research In Motion, Palm and others are listening and will build their own hype around their respective devices. Perhaps one of those companies will score their own marketing coup by having Harry Potter take out his BlackBerry or (insert your favorite device here) to defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all.

When it comes down to it, the iPhone is no match for the BlackBerry, Treo, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices. Those devices meet the needs of businesses, are programmable and are available from a number of sources. What's more, many of the consumer features found on the iPhone have been present for some time on those competing devices. Media players, Web browsers, cameras and so on are all commonplace on smartphones and handhelds, pretty much negating the need for an iPhone in the first place.

Perhaps the biggest advantage offered by the iPhone alternatives comes down to price: The iPhone is very expensive when compared with other handhelds and, adding insult to injury, AT&T is charging an arm and a leg for the cellular plans.

So what's the story for the VAR here? Do yourself a favor and talk your customers out of iPhones and into open devices that offer additional opportunities for integration and services. Your customers will thank you for it, and perhaps you'll earn a few bucks in the process instead of Apple and AT&T.