It’s iPhone Eve: Corporations were nestled all snug in their beds…

While nightmares of iPhones danced in IT heads.

OK, so my poetry sucks. Sue me.

It appears that even at this late date there are a few revelations to be made about the iPhone. Well, maybe not revelations, but at least tantalizing tidbits that, if not as tasty as sugar-plums, are food for thought nonetheless.

For the last couple of weeks, most of the iPhone press from Apple has been targeted primarily at consumers. They’ve been pretty mum about what role, if any, the iPhone would play in the enterprise, and what services might be available for it. But today, a few things have come out. Not all of it is from Apple, and most of it is not in the form of a hard press release, but given the source it’s significant anyway.

Some of these came in an interview with Apple’s Steve Jobs and AT&T’s Randall Stephensen. There appear to be edited versions of the same interview in a few publications. In USA Today, a question was asked about the iPhone handling corporate email:

“Q: What about corporate e-mail? I understand that’s an issue for many consumers, who may not be able to hook up to their company networks?Jobs: You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming weeks. We have some pilots going with companies with names you’ll recognize. This won’t be a big issue.”

Sounds like Apple is going to make it difficult for IT groups to say “no” to the iPhone. If they can come out with some “names you’ll recognize” that have corporate email to the iPhone, it will be harder for IT groups to say it can’t, or shouldn’t, be done.

I wonder what form this will take? There’s been rumors Apple would license Microsoft’s ActiveSync for this, but that would mean following the proprietary Exchange format. I’m not sure Apple wants to do this. They’d likely prefer staying open. I wonder if these corporations are simply using some form of IMAP-based service? It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks, and just what corporations Apple is dealing with.

In a piece in the Wall Street Journal, Jobs was asked about what applications from third-party developers he’d like to see, and had this to say:

“…But I think the majority of applications people are going to write for the iPhone are going to be things that corporations like. [Salesforce.com CEO] Mark Benioff has announced he’s going to be doing some exciting stuff with the iPhone… I think people are going to surprise us over the next six or nine months with some pretty creative stuff.”

More applications targeted at the enterprise, and from Salesforce.com? That could be a biggie.

Finally, in the New York Times we have this:

“Mr. Jobs also hinted that there would be announcements about services for corporate users within several weeks. “There’s already corporations who have been running pilots hooking up to Exchange servers and other kinds of mail servers, and they have gone very well,” he said.”

Further confirmation of the iPhone handling corporate email. And what other “announcements about services” does Apple have in mind?

Aside from the Apple/AT&T interview, there were a couple of other significant news items today to strike at the corporate heart.

Visto, a provider of mobile email business, announced the support of corporate email for the iPhone. Support of corporate email on the iPhone is being bombarded on all sides! Between the Jobs comments above, this Visto announcement, and the fact that the iPhone already supports IMAP (which Exchange also supports), if this thing is popular there is simply no way IT groups will have any choice but to embrace it. At least not for very long.

Also today, Zoho has announced an iPhone version of their office suite. This is significant in that the iPhone can read popular office files, but not yet edit them. So here is an alternative. It also seems reasonable to assume that Google’s partnership with Apple may yield something like this with Google Docs as well. In fact, if Google had not planned on something like this, then the Zoho announcement may very well spur them to do so now.

The ability to edit office docs would shoot down yet another argument against the iPhone for corporate use. For corporations, things are getting even more interesting from an iPhone perspective.

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