The Australian arm of global banking giant, Lloyds International, is planning to migrate up to 400 staff to the iPhone after conducting a successful pilot.
The decision to place stock in the popular consumer handset over the BlackBerry, which has long been first choice in high-end enterprises, was driven by improvements in using Exchange with ActiveSync and security enhancements brought about by the latest version of the device’s operating system (OS). Additionally, a data bucket deal secured with Lloyds’ telco service provider was also influential as it allows the company’s mobile employees to tether the iPhone to use it as a modem.
“We did a small pilot of 20 and basically it was a resounding success,” Lloyds International head of infrastructure, Michael Baukes, said. “That was simply because after we did a cost model on the return on investment on Exchange with ActiveSync the numbers stacked up from a security and total cost of ownership perspective.”
While the rollout is dependent on policy development and approval from head office in the UK, the plan is for existing gear – including SQL and BlackBerry infrastructure – to be wound down and staff to get an iPhone as they request new devices.
“You tend to find that as most people come onboard they get a BlackBerry and then they have their own personal iPhone,” Baukes said. “So it is very much a bring your own arrangement and we will configure it, make sure it is secure and then manage it.”
Despite selling 13.4 million iPhones during the first nine months of this year, according to Apple’s most recent financial reports, many enterprises have baulked at adopting the iPhone in its past iterations due to security concerns. At the time of the iPhone 3GS launch in Australia analyst firm Gartner went on record as saying it wasn’t ready.
However, Ovum enterprise senior analyst, Claudio Castelli, said while some CIOs had called it a “nightmare”, the tweaks to ActiveSync and the smartphone’s OS along with other vendor support – Cisco and its WebEx application being just one example – had now made it an attractive option.
“What I see is more enterprise applications being deployed for the iPhone. That is improving the security issues a lot,” he said. “It makes easier integration into the enterprise domain.”
In particular, the enhanced ability to conduct a remote data wipe on lost iPhones has meant a former enterprise security hurdle has now been cleared. Baukes explained that in the Lloyds’ pilot one of the devices was left in a taxi in Sydney.
“One of the features of ActiveSync is you can do a remote wipe on it [the iPhone] now. So as long as the device is on and locked, which it usually is because of the security policies we are forcing down, effectively you jump onto Exchange and it is one console,” he said. “So you don’t have to jump onto a BlackBerry service to initiate a remote wipe, you can do it from a central console in Exchange.”
Additionally, Lloyds has developed two iPhone applications for its internal operations. The first was a directory service and the second a management tool that are both accessed by a VPN.
“The coolest part of it really was from a development perspective,” Baukes said about the pilot. “If you take RIM and the SDK they have got with the development lifecycle versus what Apple has got, it is really quick for someone to get an app running with the iPhone. Objective C is pretty simple to learn to some degree and getting a hybrid app between the two is reasonably simple. From that perspective people are more interested in developing on an Apple platform than they are on a BlackBerry platform.”