The iPhone may or may not be a success in China, but some analysis just out suggests it's actually doing pretty well in the enterprise environment. It may even more than triple its market share compared to last year.
When you think of corporate smartphones, you tend to think almost automatically of RIM's BlackBerrys—they're solid, reliable, iconic, successful and have sewn up something like 40% of that market. The iPhone, with its glossy looks, high-tech allure, reputation as a gaming and entertainment platform and relatively high unit costs isn't something you'd necessarily associate with a corporate environment. Apple itself has gone on record to state that the tens of thousands of apps that are helping to make the phone a success (thousands of which seem business-oriented) are most definitely not business tools, implying the phone itself isn't.
Which is why Deutsche Bank's analysis is pretty surprising. It suggests that by the end of this year Apple will have sold two million iPhones to corporate users, through a mix of employee reimbursements and direct IT department purchases. That'll give Apple a 7% share of the enterprise smartphone market, versus the 2% it had in 2008—a massive growth.
Why the sudden interest? Deutsche Bank thinks its because the phone gets high user satisfaction ratings, that it's innovative, it has plenty of enterprise applications and the virtual keyboard may actually be a draw for some users. The application count is unsurprising, and with over 100,000 apps on sale now, it seems reasonable that the sheer number, utility and diversity of business apps are tempting people towards the phone. The touchscreen suggestion is more interesting though. BlackBerrys were attractive at first because they included a full QWERTY keypad when every other phone had a standard one, and the iPhone's virtual touch-sensitive keypad was seen as a distraction, and not suited for business environments.
That argument never made much sense, and doesn't seem to hold true either—if the iPhone is tripling its market share, business users must like it. But Deutsche Bank's data doesn't mention what may actually be the key driver behind business-use adoption for the phone: Jealousy. The iPhone's been in the limelight for over two years now, with more press attention than almost any other device, and with a booming ecosystem of apps and entertainment. Business users feature phones and BlackBerrys look dinosaurish in comparison—yes, even the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm—and lack the opportunities offered by the App Store. Many business users will have looked at this evolving situation and thought something along the lines of, "If the company's paying for it, then why don't I get some of that iPhone goodness?"