When Apple released its iPhone 3G earlier this summer, Apple touted it as “The best phone for business. Ever.” For most users, that means enterprise e-mail, calendar, and contacts on the device. 

The iPhone 3G launched with a native support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync – a logical, but interesting choice for Apple. Logical because Microsoft Exchange is, by most measures, the leading e-mail solution in the market. Interesting in that, given the desktop marketing wars between “Mac and PC”, one wonders why Apple did not provide native support for IBM’s Lotus Notes also.

So where do things stand with other enterprise e-mail solutions a few months later? Below is a quick summary for IT shops that do not have Microsoft Exchange:

Google GAPE: For the iPhone, Google provides a tailored web interface. Another option is Gmail for mobile, a Java-based e-mail application. Gmail also supports IMAP synchronization of e-mail to iPhone’s native e-mail client.

IBM Lotus NotesIBM announced at the end of September the release of iNotes Ultralite software that supports Lotus Notes on the iPhone. The software is free for anyone with a Lotus Notes license. iNotes Ultralite is web application that leverages the Safari browser on the iPhone to access the Lotus Notes functions. The advantage is that since it is a browser, no data is stored on the iPhone (except in the browser cache), should the iPhone turn up missing.  However, it is not a client, so no data on the device also means no synchronization with the iPhone’s native e-mail, calendar, and contacts functionality.

Novell GroupWise: GroupWise 7 ships with GroupWise Mobile Server – an OEMed product from Nokia for mobile e-mail, calendar, and contacts for GroupWise. GroupWise Mobile Server does not support iPhone and, with the latest end of life announcement from Nokia for the product, will not in the future. Novell customers can utilize a partner solution recently released from Notify Technology that provides full support for the iPhone and GroupWise through the native iPhone functionality using ActiveSync.

Oracle Beehive: Using IMAP, Oracle Beehive e-mail is supported on the iPhone. Another option is to install Oracle Beehive Integration for Outlook, through which iPhone users can also synchronize calendar entries, tasks, and contacts through iTunes. Like Novell GroupWise, Notify Technology provides a technically better solution for Oracle Beehive also, with full support for the iPhone and Beehive through the native iPhone functionality.

Yahoo! Zimbra: Zimbra supports the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol, which permits the iPhone to synchronize with Zimbra exactly as it would with Exchange. 

In sum, a few months later, there are ways for all of the enterprise solutions to get e-mail to the iPhone – mostly through IMAP or an optimized iPhone browser access. However, because Apple chose to support ActiveSync, the rich client experience of synchronization of e-mail, calendar, and contacts with the native iPhone clients is only available to those solutions that support ActiveSync. For IBM, Novell, and Oracle this means a web client, or a third party solution like Notify Technologies that connects their product with the iPhone through ActiveSync.

If Apple wants the iPhone to be “The best phone for business. Ever.”, Apple needs to add support for other e-mail vendors, notably IBM, to deliver synchronized enterprise e-mail, calendar, and contacts.

Note:  This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

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