Bank of America still not ready for iPhone

Editor’s Note: This story is excerpted from Computerworld. For more Mac coverage, visit Computerworld’s Macintosh Knowledge Center.

Despite Apple’s determination to make the iPhone enterprise-ready, there are still some holdouts.

Bank of America runs a mobile banking application on the iPhone smartphone, but the bank does not allow its many employees to use it at work, a bank official said at the Go Mobile 2009 in San Francisco.

Their biggest concern is that the bank can’t centrally manage the iPhone as easily as it can BlackBerry devices from Research in Motion, said Jamie Young, vice president of enterprise technology for Bank of America.

Young mentioned the problem during a question and answer session at the conference. “We restrict users to BlackBerry, much to the chagrin of Apple and others,” he said.

Young noted that with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server he can easily shut off the camera function of a BlackBerry device because of the central management function of BES.

But noting that users are clamoring for iPhone and other devices, he wanted to know if central management functions are coming for devices other than BlackBerry.

Young told Computerworld that many thousands of its workers used BlackBerry devices issued by the bank, making it one of the largest BES deployments in the world.

Many workers may also be using the iPhone, but it is only for their personal use, he said, and paid for by the worker.

Apple officials did not appear at the conference, and could not be reached to comment, although they have in the past described deployments of the iPhone to large businesses, and analysts have named several large enterprise deployments of iPhone that have been successful, including Kraft Foods and Oracle.

Young said he believes that the large businesses using iPhone are not in banking or financial services. “I don’t know of a bank using it,” he said, noting that security worries are higher for banks than other companies.

Officials at Sybase and Good Technology both said they make products to centrally manage a range of wireless devices over wireless networks, including iPhone.

“Apple and others are just not there yet” with central device management, said Doug Brackbill, executive vice president of Good Technology. “Good’s tools give remote access to device cameras and locking of devices, so the tools are here today and only getting better.”

Brackbill said a single management product for various devices makes the most sense. “What might happen is that a big company gets the Apple BES and the Palm BES, so you could get 20 different BES servers,” he said.

Sybase CIO Jim Swartz said that the Sybase iAnywhere central management product can be used to kill devices lost or stolen. “It’s been pretty impressive with an array of tests, and we even get period requests to turn off devices even if they have encryption running on them," he said. "Some might say our management is better than BES.”

The problem of having to manage many device platforms affected one IT administrator from a large company who asked that his name not be used.

“We have 40 form factors and 12 operating systems,” the administrator said. “I don’t need that headache. I feel like a crime scene investigator, trying to find all the dead bodies out there,” he said, referring to all the new devices he has discovered in recent months that are in use.

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