- Planning for and Supporting the iPhone in Business Environments
- Activation, Deployment, and Sync via iTunes
- Exchange and Other Email Options
- Automatic Setup Using Configuration Files
One of the things that makes the iPhone seem less like a serious business device and more like a consumer media player is that it must be activated using iTunes. From a consumer perspective (particularly as a product that evolved out of the iPod/iTunes ecosystem), this strategy makes a great deal of sense. After all, one of the big features of the iPhone for consumers is syncing digital music and video.
This approach also presents its own set of issues for businesses, however. Ideally, you don't want large numbers of employees having free access to iTunes on their work computers. Decreased productivity, possibly pirated media being stored on company hardware, and potential network traffic from features like the iTunes Store and podcast directory or the sharing of iTunes libraries across the network are all very valid concerns. Also, there's the question of responsibility for songs or other media purchased by a user and stored on a company computer—particularly when you consider that Apple doesn't make it easy for users to re-download purchases if they're lost due to hard drive failures or other problems.
The good news is that iTunes is required to activate an iPhone, but really isn't needed for day-to-day use. Part of the in-store activation process for consumers is an example of a computer and iTunes not being directly required to use an iPhone. This means that IT staff can manage the activation and distribution of iPhones centrally, much as they can other smart phones. In many cases, this will mean that the staff in charge of rolling out and eventually supporting the phones will be the only ones that require iTunes.
Another option is to request activation of the iPhones from the carrier during purchase (much as consumers receive in-store activation). The practicality of this option may vary depending on the number of iPhones being purchased. It also doesn't address the issue of restoring iPhones in response to problems, or installing updated firmware from Apple—processes that also require iTunes. So, ideally, you'll need to create some mechanism for centrally dealing with iTunes for any company iPhones, whether as part of the initial rollout or as an ongoing support solution.
On the flip side, there are some advantages to allowing iTunes for users. Without iTunes, users will be able to make use of most iPhone features (including Exchange/email, web browsing, and applications), but they won't be able to sync data, including web browser books or calendar and contact data in environments that don't include an Exchange server. Also, the sync process backs up data and settings on an iPhone (which can be helpful is a phone needs to be replaced).
If you decide to allow iTunes, you'll probably want to have a staff member walk through the initial activation and sync with users. You will also most likely want to limit access to specific iTunes features, which can be done using Apple's managed preferences architecture under Mac OS X or by editing the appropriate keys in the Windows registry on PCs. Though not a perfect solution, these options can mitigate some of the concerns about using iTunes. For a more ideal solution, it would be helpful for Apple to release a business-oriented version of iTunes that provides iPhone sync capabilities but doesn't allow access to consumer-oriented features, which should be possible given that a similar stripped-down version of iTunes reportedly is used in AT&T stores for iPhone activations.