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iPhone 3G and Microsoft Office

Yes, everyone is talking about the second generation iPhone – the iPhone 3G. Here we’ll focus on the features that relate to Microsoft Office users.

by Office Watch

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Yes, everyone is talking about the second generation iPhone – the iPhone 3G. Here we’ll focus on the features that relate to Microsoft Office users.

Existing iPhone upgrade

While all the talk is about the new hardware, Apple will also release a ‘version 2’ software upgrade for existing iPhone users. There’s no word on price or release date – just a ‘watch this space’ promise. So most of the remarks about iPhone 3G features will also apply to upgraded iPhone’s (hardware reliant features like GPS being the obvious exception).

Powerpoint attachments

If you’ve ever hankered to see a PPT slide on a really small screen, now you can. iPhone 3G will support Powerpoint attachments, both .PPT and the Office 2007 .PPTX files.

Exchange Email

The current iPhone / iTouch devices can connect to Exchange Server for email via either POP or IMAP connections. It’s not optimal by any means but it works.

iPhone 3G adds a connection to Microsoft’s own ActiveSync technology (the same ActiveSync that’s used in Pocket PC / Windows Mobile devices).

That means any new or changed email, contacts or calendar items are ‘pushed’ by Exchange Server out to the device (as opposed to POP/IMAP where the portable device ‘pulls’ information from the host on a regular basis). This is not only more immediate but saves resources on the portable device (ie it’s not polling the host when it’s not necessary).

According to Apple, the iPhone 3G can use ‘push’ technology with any Exchange Server 2003 or 2007 system (including Small Business Server 2003). It’s all done via a 128-bit encrypted connection. iPhone 3G supports Exchange Server’s Global Address List (GAL) so you can find anyone in your company.

Using ActiveSync is good news for users. Try as they might, portable devices that try to connect to Outlook without ActiveSync have considerable problems.

VPN

Again, the current iPhone / iTouch devices have VPN support, but it’s much improved with iPhone 3G.

With help from Cisco Systems, the iPhone 3G has support for IPSec connections as well as newer wireless network standards, WPA2 Enterprise and 802.1X authentication.

Configuration

iPhone 3G’s can be configured remotely by the administrator via Configuration Profiles. The mobile device can be remotely ‘wiped’ if it has been stolen – this protects any private company information from snooping.

There’s more information and ‘deployment scenarios’ available from Apple.

Additional features

With the better email and contacts support comes some essential new features in iPhone 3G. Email can be managed on a ‘bulk’ basis (ie tag several messages then move or delete them) and contacts can be searched (good for a large contact list let alone an enormous corporate directory).

Beyond Exchange Server - MobileMe

If you don’t have Exchange Server, iPhone and iPhone 3G can grab your email from any POP or IMAP enabled mail host (in practice that means any mail host).

At Office Watch we have an iTouch device which connects to Gmail, Exchange Server and a plain POP mail host quite happily. But it can’t connect to Outlook remotely (it syncs calendar and contacts with Outlook when connected to a computer running Outlook and iTunes).

Apple now has a ‘Mobile Me’ service for $99 a year – this provides push email, contacts and calendar services for individuals or families. You get a new email address in the ‘@me.com’ domain, storage for email, calendar and contacts plus 20GB of file storage for photos etc. There’s no indication on the other storage limits, in particular email.

$99 is pretty high and it’ll be interesting to see other companies provide rival products (ie hosted Exchange Server solutions for individuals).

MobileMe replaces the current .Mac accounts (you can keep your @mac.com address)

 

Of course the biggest challenge might be to convince your company (or yourself) to pay for iPhone 3G’s even at the new ‘lower’ prices. While the upfront prices are lower you’re still tied to a particular phone company and contract so the total cost is about the same as the old iPhone prices.

And there’s still the matter of the non-replaceable battery, a bit of in-built obsolescence that only Apple seems able to get away with.

While the iPhone and iTouch are cute and gorgeous bits of technology you might decide that a Microsoft based Windows Mobile device is more practical and cheaper in the long run.

Article posted: Thursday, 12 June 2008

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