That didn't take long. Before Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone was a year old -- before it had even scratched the surface of the mass consumer market -- some pundits had concluded that the device would continue its march right into the enterprise space. Much of the debate falls along the same battle lines drawn in the Mac vs. PC war: namely, that Apple's innovation will win over converts in any demographic.
Yet while I believe the iPhone is a smash hit, I don't think penetration of the enterprise market will go as easily as many envision. In fact, I think there's a good chance the iPhone will fail to reach a significant penetration level in corporate hallways for a number of reasons.
First, it should go without saying that the iPhone will have to be offered by Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , T-Mobile, and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) -- not just AT&T (NYSE: T ) . But fellow Fool Tim Beyers made another good point: Information technology (IT) departments hate change.
But wait, Tim says, Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry has successfully broken through IT resistance, and now has companies issuing the devices to millions of suit-and-tie types. Some believe that Apple has the same -- or even better -- chance at becoming a mainstay tool for the white-collar workforce.
But there's a big reason why RIM won its long battle to capture the enterprise market: At the time, there was no viable alternative for email on the go. Apple today would have to do more than just match RIM's ability to efficiently manage core enterprise applications such as email, calendar, and contacts.
Steve Jobs would also have to give corporations good financial reasons to either toss out all those RIM servers or support both devices -- partnerships with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) alone won't do it. iPhone junkies caught with their pants down and no ROI to show will be sent back to their offices, where their BlackBerrys wait on their desks.
Unless a dramatic overhaul of IT policy in corporate America occurs and RIM falls flat on its face in the next few years, Apple will just have to be content with plundering the consumer market.