The iPhone quickly became a consumer sensation when it first debuted in June 2007, but supplanting Blackberry as the smartphone of choice in corporate America has been a noticeably slower process. Still, Apple continues to make inroads in the business world, with the latest news being that two of the biggest banks in the US, Bank of America and Citigroup, are both engaged in pilot programs for the iPhone that might ultimately allow employees to choose Apple’s device for corporate emailing instead of the tried and true BlackBerry.
Bank of America, which has about 284,000 employees, and Citigroup, with 258,000 workers, are also testing Android smartphones, one person said. The efforts are intended to widen the choice of devices employees can use, rather than replace the BlackBerry, the person said.
The trials at Bank of America and Citigroup involve more than 1,000 employees, two people said. Testing, which typically takes four to six weeks, is advanced at Bank of America and will be followed by a pilot project before potentially wider implementation, one person said.
The iPhone helped catalyze the transformation of the smartphone from a mere email and rudimentary communication device to a full fledged multimedia and internet portable computer. That being the case, devices like the iPhone and Android handsets are much better positioned to provide a more engaging and appealing experience than RIM’s line of BlackBerry handsets, which while great for email, have failed to really succeed at much else.
Still, Apple and Android do have some playing up to do, especially with respect to security. Apple, though, has consistently made improvements to its iPhone software to make the device more appealing to security-minded corporations. Some examples include stronger encryption tools, the ability to implement longer passcodes, and the ability to remotely wipe a lost or stolen device. And while the big money is in the consumer market, make no mistake about Apple’s efforts to infiltrate the enterprise. BusinessWeek notes, for example, that Apple even “enlisted computer-services provider Unisys Corp. to help it sell more devices to corporate customers.”