Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sybase ushers in iPhone as secure client for mainstream corporate email

When I saw the demo last summer it was impressive. Sybase used its Information Anywhere suite as a go-between to allow such corporate email stalwarts as IBM Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange to integrate with a mobile Apple iPhone for email and PIM.

Now the demo is set to become a commercial reality. Sybase today at Mobile Business Expo in New York announced that it will begin supporting the iPhone as a wireless client for Domino and Exchange email and PIM/address book (including corporate directory look-up) early next year.

The iAnywhere approach comes with full connectivity to the native iPhone email application, not via webmail in the Safari browser. The email is therefore also available for offline use.

While the Sybase announcement comes soon after Apple's publicly declared intention to allow third-party developers and ISVs to write native apps for the iPhone, Sybase said the announcements are unrelated to the forthcoming SDK.

"We took guidance from Apple" on the project to include iPhone as a client among some 200 others that Information Anywhere suite connects (such as Windows Mobile, Symbian and Palm-based devices), but there is no formal relationship between Sybase and Apple, said Senthil Krishnapillai, Sybase product manager for iAnywhere.

The Information Anywhere suite connects mobile clients to email systems using standards, but not IMAP, which many email administrators shun do to potential unfettered exposure of email traffic to the Internet. Those using the Sybase solution for making the iPhone a corporate email client will be able to use their mobile networks to securely synchronize and replicate their emails, said Krishnapillai.

The Sybase approach will work with any iPhone and supports all Domino versions from R6 through the new version 8, as well as Exchange 2000 through Exchange 2007. The solution will require the iAnywhere suite 5.5, however. The iPhone-iAnywhere solution is expected in Q1 2008.

We should also expect that Sybase will enable unified communications functions, including click-to-call, on the iPhone from the online corporate directory. Sybase says its capability to provide such integration is unique among mobile infrastructure vendors.

What's more, it should take about five minutes to set up a user, following the same basic steps as setting up a Windows Mobile connection, said Sybase. This should make email administrators breathe easier as iPhone users request connectivity privileges.

Sybase said that many enterprises in the U.S. are asking Sybase and its partners for ways to use the iPhone for corporate messaging. Such inquiries are also coming from Europe, where the iPhone will soon be available in several markets.

Quite a bit more integration could be done between iPhone and corporate email. Microsoft might not be too keen on it, but IBM should be.

If you're a Domino shop, send an email to your IBM support staff and ask if Big Blue will use the forthcoming iPhone SDK to provide more native integration, perhaps between the Domino/Notes calendar and the native calendar client on iPhone. Web access could work in the meantime, I suppose.

But wait ... how about running a Notes client directly on the iPhone? Hey, how about running Outlook on the iPhone? These would be some killer apps should users clamor enough for them (and/or hackers make up the difference). I won't hold my breathe on Outlook, but maybe one of the open source Outlook knock-offs, eh?

If I were IBM, however, I'd think very seriously about a native Notes client for iPhone (and for all the other iPhone wannabe converged devices that are making their way to the market). A Notes client, of course, would allow the mobile iPhone users to get a lot more to their fingertips than email and calendar -- there are many thousands of Domino applications and data views that would make the iPhone a very handsome corporate endpoint.

Come on, IBM and Apple how about it? Sybase has shown the way, now take the ball and run with it. Notes and iPhone is match made in heaven.

Should IBM and Apple work together to bring a Notes client to the iPhone?