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Back in March 2008, in their iPhone 2.0 Beta press release, Apple announced that it has licensed Microsoft’s ActiveSync protocol to enable mobile devices to synchronize over the air with Microsoft Exchange Server. Microsoft’s VP for Exchange, Terry Myerson, is very excited about the agreement.
One of the initial criticisms of the first release of the iPhone was the lack of business level functionality and weak integration with existing systems. It was more of a personal toy than a corporate productivity tool. It had poor contact and calendar management from the device and was not strong as a phone. In addition, many businesses did not consider the iPhone because of the commitment to a single carrier (AT&T) and a lack of security features. iPhone 2.0 will require a 2 year commitment with AT&T. With ActiveSync, iPhone adds what the mobile industry considers to be push-email, contacts, and calendars with Microsoft Exchange 2003 sp2 or Exchange 2007 sp1. It’s not quite the same as Windows Mobile pocket Outlook, but certainly messaging is more timely for iPhone users allowing faster response on action items. ActiveSync also allows for enforcement of some security policy such as secure access to email and remote wipe in case the device is lost or stolen. iPhone 2.0 also includes a Cisco VPN client for secure network access.
Apple has just published (June 2008) a whitepaper entitled iPhone in Enterprise: Deployment Scenarios and Device Configuration Overview which includes several pages on iPhone configuration with Exchange Server. Apple is serious about bringing iPhone into the corporate world. With this move, Apple brings its top-selling iPhone to the most popular corporate enterprise messaging solution. Now we just need to see one of those Mac vs PC ads where the characters are engaged in a warm fuzzy hug.