Microsoft: iPhone lacks business savvy

Sure, it'll play tunes and look cool. But just try viewing Office documents on the upcoming Apple gadget.

Apple's soon-to-be-launched iPhone will be irrelevant to business users because it is a "closed device" and does not support Microsoft Office, a senior executive with the software giant said this week.

"It's a great music phone, and I'm sure it will be fantastic and have an interesting user interface," Chris Sorenson, Microsoft's Asia-Pacific head of smart-phone strategy, told press during a recent visit to Australia.

"However, it's a closed device that you cannot install applications on, and there's no support for Office documents. If you're an enterprise and want to roll out a line of business applications, it's just not an option. Even using it as a heavy messaging device will be a challenge," the executive added.

Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system is already running on 140 phone models, while Apple's iPhone is not expected to hit the U.S. market until June, and Australia in 2008. The Windows mobile devices have picked up a significant portion of the converged device market, although they are up against the dominance of Nokia and its Symbian OS, Research In Motion and its BlackBerry software, and decreasingly, Palm.

While the entry of the iPhone (with its cut-down version of Mac OS X) into this market offers new options for consumers, Sorenson believes user familiarity with the Windows Mobile interface--and the ease with which companies can buy and develop applications for the platform--will sustain its increasing popularity and help keep the iPhone out of the lucrative corporate market.

Windows Mobile was released in May 2005, but it wasn't until early 2006 that devices based on the operating system had become widely available to Australian buyers. By contrast, devices running will be on the Australian market before the end of the month--beating Microsoft's own projections that the platform would ship in the third calendar quarter.

While the iPhone will focus on integrating phone, Internet browsing and iPod features such as music, WM6 adds enterprise-targeted features such as better synchronization of data between mobile devices and office servers.

"With 3G we see Australians wanting more bandwidth on devices than ever before. There's a growing trend toward smarter devices, and with WM6 we've tried to bring more of what you can do on a PC onto the devices. Manufacturers can innovate heavily in their designs, but keep that consistent (Windows) look and feel," Sorenson said.

When contacted, an Apple Australia representative said: "I am not interested in commenting."

David Braue of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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