iPhone and Enterprise E-mail… A Few Months Later Friday, Oct 24 2008 

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.

GroupWise 8 Open Beta Released Thursday, Sep 4 2008 

Novell GroupWise 8 released to open beta yesterday. As a former product manager for GroupWise, I think Novell customers will be pleased with the enhancements – otherwise, I didn’t do a very good job. But, having worked on the product, let me share some insight I have on this release that might be of interest.

While Novell doesn’t spend much marketing effort to compete with IBM and Microsoft in the enterprise messaging market, Novell does continue to develop and maintain GroupWise for their established customer base. Most market estimates place Novell’s single digit enterprise messaging market share at a distant third to IBM and Microsoft. But GroupWise is a good example of how e-mail systems once entrenched, tend to stay. 

It has taken Novell a long time to deliver on GroupWise 8.  GroupWise 7 released in August 2005. However, GroupWise customers will find some nice “delighters” in this next release, as Novell spent a significant portion of its development effort on the end user experience. 

Perhaps one the most significant differentiators in this release is that Novell can now tout a complete enterprise messaging solution from the server to the desktop for Linux. Novell has been using its own Linux desktop internally for several years. As a result, there was significant pressure on the GroupWise team to bring the GroupWise Linux client up to snuff. The Linux client in GroupWise 8 is arguably one of the richest Linux e-mail clients in the market. Unfortunately for Linux aficionados, it is not open source.  For GroupWise customers, this also means a very rich Mac client, as the two clients share the same code base. 

In addition to the Linux development, GroupWise contact management, task management and calendaring have been enhanced significantly – bringing them on par (or even slightly better, depending upon your opinion) with Exchange and Notes.  

Two major pain points for GroupWise that are not fixed in this release are the weak Outlook connector and no iPhone support. 

Overall, GroupWise customers should be happy with this next version and it should help Novell to retain customers. Now Novell needs to find a large, credible partner to help them provide a robust hosted GroupWise offering or potentially watch their customer base dwindle away as SaaS e-mail solutions become more viable for enterprises.