"Enterprise" iPhone Support Creates More Questions Than Answers · Mar 10, 06:27 PM

Apple has revealed that many of the Enterprise-class functions on the iPhone are Exchange-friendly. This is great news for companies which have Exchange servers, but it doesn’t address the standards-compliant ways it seemed that Apple was approaching to satisfy some of these demands prior to this surprise announcement.

Whither Darwin Calendar Server and CalDAV for Calendar Sharing? What of extending IMAP for To-Do Tasks and Notes? IMAP IDLE for “push?” How about MacOSX Server’s Open Directory for Contacts?

Calendaring


Darwin Calendar Server is great for collaborative calendars for the desktop and laptop, what with it’s slick integration with most of the vCal and iCal compliant clients. However, there is no iPhone support. As of iPhone version 1.1.4, the Calendar is a pretty limited app, requiring a sync from iCal on the desktop. Hopefully, Apple will decide to bake in Calendar Server support with the 2.0 upgrade, seeing as how they are leveraging ActiveSync to mesh Exchange Calendaring with the iPhone’s MobileCalendar app.

To-Do Tasks and Notes


There’s already seen some indication that Apple is going to support Notes and To-Do Tasks on the iPhone. They may use IMAP for the transfer of this information based on what’s currently going on with Mail.app and iCal, but the implementation is half-baked at the moment. Mail.app can put to-do tasks in an “invisible calendar” in an Apple-created IMAP mailbox called “Apple Mail To Do” in each of your IMAP accounts, but you have to begin this process from Mail. iCal remains mostly oblivious to this special calendar until you “reveal” it by right-clicking on the calendar in Mail and selecting “Reveal in iCal”. The iPhone can see To-Do tasks in this special IMAP mailbox, but they appear as Mime-Attachments in MobileMail, and the iPhone provides no way to view or edit them. Full, round-trip To-Do management should be a part of the iPhone experience, and Apple has many of the pieces in place. Will they only support the ActiveSync provided task management?

“Push”


In an always-on internet world, not having “push” e-mail seems almost antiquated. The Desktop version of Mail.app has IMAP IDLE support, which (for properly configured IMAP servers) will allow instant notification and synching of Mail. iPhone has some support for IMAP IDLE, the addition of which corresponded with GMail IMAP support, but in versions up to 1.1.4, it’s not immediate. If and when Apple makes IMAP IDLE work correctly, push e-mail should be a no-brainer for non-Exchange networks.

Open Directory


If you have Leopard Server (or correctly configured LDAP server), you can create shared contacts and contact groups. Address Book will connect to these types of servers and allow you to utilize shared contact information, but why doesn’t iPhone yet? Maybe Apple will extend the Mobile Contacts application to get information from their own Server products? We can hope.

Plea, Plea, Please?!


Exchange support will be a huge boon to iPhone market share in the short term. In the long term, the tea leaves don’t yet show if this is a positioning move for Apple to get the thin edge of the wedge of Apple ease-of-use into the Enterprise. Not all Enterprises use Exchange, though, and it would be in Apple’s best interest to complete the work that’s obviously underway to make iPhone an equal peer on the open standards-based server software being used in Leopard Server.

Hopefully, come June, we’ll find that the hooks into all of the mobile applications which allow ActiveSync support have analogs for configuring them to get data from CalDAV, IMAP and Open Directory.

— Tom Ierna

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