The iPhone Earthquake

Once again, the iPhone rules the press with a heavy dollop of enticing news.

There’s a lot here on the surface and a lot below the surface. Let’s scratch the surface first.

The announcements about Apple licensing ActiveSync are interesting. There was lots of speculation in this regard and greetz to those who called it. I myself lost a bet. I was thinking that Apple might actually thumb their nose at ActiveSync and employ webdav for Exchange 2003 (much like Entourage) or web services for Exchange 2007. Of course, that would not be a quick route to policy controls on the device itself (i.e. remote kill), so ActiveSync makes the most business sense both in time and money. It’s a good investment. I was just hoping they wouldn’t just… well, because.

But they did. Let’s analyze what this brings:

– Sync with email (effectively push email, but it’s not TRULY push email… ActiveSync, even on Windows Mobile, IS NOT PUSH EMAIL. It just appears that way).

– Sync with contacts

– Sync with calendars

– NOTICEABLY ABSENT: sync with tasks

– Policy control over device. The You Had Me At EHLO blog states that this is about at the Exchange 2003 SP2 level of device control, which means it’s not as feature rich as the Blackberry, but a good starting point.

Other items of note for enterprises:

– Cisco IPSEC and VPN clients

– Two-factor authentication

What’s missing? Well, you saw me point out that task syncing is missing… Merlin Mann is likely pissing himself right about now over that. But I noticed today that there were no federal government folks present and… here’s the bad news for those federal workers… Jobs never mentioned encryption of data at rest. Thanks to an OMB directive, encryption of data at rest is a requirement for a mobile device on a federal government network. Guess what device is the only one to meet that requirement?

If you’re thinking of a berry in the color of night, you’d be right.

You’d also be right if you’re thinking of the next version of Windows Mobile… 6.1, I believe they call it. Last I remember, that also had encryption of data at rest.

So unfortunately, this may leave the iPhone out of the federal government networks for a little while longer. Perhaps it’s an oversight that it wasn’t mentioned – but I’m betting that it was left out deliberately.

All in all, I wasn’t crazy about the iPhone before but I certainly am now. The fact that they’ve really turned it into a platform with an ecosystem makes this very, very exciting. One of the challenges of the OS X platform was the lack of an ecosystem. Now with OS X advances, the freely-available Xcode and now the freely-available iPhone SDK, Apple stands to really rock the world with an ecosystem that could quickly rival Microsoft.

To make sure they’re shaking things up, there’s that iFund thing. What a fantastic idea. Folks, when was the last time Microsoft paid you to develop applications for their platform? If you want to get into the Microsoft developmental mafia, you’re likely looking at an MSDN subscription ($2500 or so the first year, $1500 each year afterwards… PER SEAT!)… you’re looking at heavy software licensing costs and hell, they don’t even distribute the application or updates for you.

Apple is not only making the price of entry into their ecosystem dirt cheap ($99), the development software is free and they will distribute your applications/updates. Folks, this is a hell of a deal and I’m betting there are small businesses and garage developers everywhere getting excited about this.

I really, really think Microsoft is in trouble on many fronts. It’s going to be hard to stop this kind of excitement. I don’t even intend to develop apps for the iPhone or the Mac and I’m excited.

Truly, there was an earthquake today in California. It may have been a subtle earthquake for some, but I felt it quite strong here on the other side of the states. I’m excited about computing again – and that’s something to cheer about.