Rogers to release iPhone July 11, analysts weigh in

Businesses won’t line the streets for a chance to buy the new 3G iPhone the way consumers are expected to when it’s released in Canada July 11, analysts say.

On the heels of Steve Jobs’ announcement of the iPhone 2.0 hardware being released in 70 countries on July 11, Rogers Wireless Inc. confirmed that would be the date it will introduce the device to Canadians. The Toronto-based carrier is keeping mum on the pricing of data plans for Apple’s latest piece of hardware.

“The price for the handset will be $199 for the 8Gb model and $299 for the 16Gb model on a three-year plan,” says Elizabeth Hamilton, a Rogers spokesperson. 

Launched as a consumer-focused device a year ago, Apple is now framing its new offering as being ready to do business. Their Web page is just one example of the marketing campaign. It outlines the push e-mail support with Microsoft Exchange, and support for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and Jpeg file formats.

But experts say that businesses aren’t prone to the consumer craze that has launched Apple’s products – Macs and iPhones alike – well back into the popular stratosphere. Even the new hardware, featuring 3G and a GPS, doesn’t seem very compelling, says Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.

“They pretty much need to do it in order to compete,” he says. “The thing is that people are lumping together the announcement of the software with the announcement of the new hardware.”

The hardware is doing the bare minimum to keep up with competitors like Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion (RIM), Tauschek adds. But the enterprise applications and SDK announced three months ago will allow businesses to at least take a look at the new iPhone.

Executives wanting to carry the same device for personal and business use may push their IT departments to consider supporting the device, the analyst says. “Satisfying both sides of the equation is something Apple is doing well now.”

But don’t expect a whole-hearted embrace of the Apple product by businesses – at least not at first, says Kevin Restivo, a senior research analyst of software at Toronto-based IDC Canada. Companies are going to want to prove the return-on-investment and run some test phases before they buy the devices en masse.

“One of the major stumbling blocks for Apple that has not been discussed amidst all the noise is support,” he says. “One thing that businesses want is support, and Apple has never been known for its enterprise support.”

Security is another issue where businesses will be cautious with the iPhone, Restivo adds. Companies are still figuring out how to secure smart phones as a whole and any new product will need to be proven as secure.

These will be discussions that enterprises want to have with Apple before they make any significant moves.

The right assortment of business applications are there on the iPhone, but demonstration of how well they actually work is the deciding factor, agrees Stephen Lawson, vice president with Mount Albert, Ont.-based Fox Group Consulting. The telecommunications analyst predicts Apple will become a player in the business mobile market later rather than sooner.

“They’ll get a few in and test it out, and if it functions in their environment, then they’ll roll it out to a small number of people for real testing,” he says. “It’ll probably be a status symbol to begin with.”

Apple’s SDK may give the ability to run enterprise-specific applications, but it may take time for businesses to figure out how to integrate their environment with the device.

“Most enterprise level environments are pretty messy,” Lawson says. “They need the device to work with a lot of different things.”

With the release date known and Apple’s intentions for the enterprise market clear, all iPhone speculators have to do now is wonder what sort of data plan Rogers will package with the device, Info-Tech’s Tauschek says. All other carriers have agreed to an unlimited data plan, but many think Rogers won’t do that.

Some have speculated the company might offer a 200 megabyte for $39 a month plan.

“You could use that up pretty quick on the iPhone,” Tauschek says.

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