Apple has finally granted the wish of business users who have craved the coolness of the iPhone but couldn't live without their push work e-mail.
Until now, iPhone users who wanted to get e-mail on their iPhones had to jump through a series of technical hoops. And as a result, a lot of business users, who would have otherwise bought the iPhone right away, have stood on the sidelines with their BlackBerrys or Windows Mobile phones drooling at the iPhone.
But now these business users will be able to get their work e-mail on an iPhone just as easily as they can on a Windows mobile phone or a BlackBerry. On Thursday, Apple announced at an event at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., that Apple has licensed the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol, which will make it much easier to do push e-mail and contacts with Exchange servers.
Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, demonstrated on stage how to activate and set up the Exchange function on an iPhone. The entire set up can be done over the air allowing e-mail, contacts, and calendar information to be automatically pushed to a device.
The announcement is a huge deal for Apple, because it eliminates one of the barriers the company faced in addressing the business market. It also made the iPhone more appealing to a group known as prosumers, people who buy their own cell phones for personal use, but also access some business applications, such as corporate e-mail, on their phones.
Right now, Research in Motion dominates the business smartphone market with over two-thirds of its 12 million customers coming from businesses and government. Large businesses bought in early to RIM's push e-mail system, which requires large companies to have all their e-mail routed through RIM's own servers. For the most part, RIM's BlackBerry e-mail service has been a huge success. But there are signs that the company's dominance could be vulnerable. In the past six months RIM has experienced at least two major outages where e-mails were not forwarding to BlackBerry devices in a timely manner.
Blackberry's co-CEO Jim Balsillie said a day after the last outage that he wasn't too worried about the outage affecting its relationship with business customers. But as Apple makes it easier for corporate customers to get e-mail on the iPhone, he may reconsider.