iPhone Exchange Support

June 20, 2007

The big blog news this week is Exchange email support on the iPhone. Financial analysts say the iPhone is doomed without it, Apple bloggers say you can enable IMAP on your Exchange server, and so on and so on.

There’s a few points I think people are missing though. First, email is only half the issue when you’re talking about Exchange. What makes Exchange impressive in the business world isn’t the fact that it gives you email, it’s how it integrates with calendars, your address book, public folders, and everything else in Outlook. It all tends to revolve around email, but when you’re talking about Exchange there’s simply a lot more to it then that.

Second, yes, you can enable IMAP on Exchange to give your iPhone users access to their email from outside the office. In my opinion though, that’s a terrible way to do it. Not just because it means extra configuration, documentation, changing firewall settings (and all the few select users at your company who might buy an iPhone), but because there’s a much easier and better way to handle this. Simply have the user create a free, web based email account and forward their Exchange email to it in addition to delivering it to their local mailbox. It take literally under a minute to do, and you can take advantage of push email on the iPhone if you use a free Yahoo! account. You could also just forward email to your user’s regular home email, but then you have to worry about them sorting the messages on their home email client, and you lose the push email features. I’ve been doing something similar with my email accounts for the past few months, and it works great; either from your cell phone, at home, or any other PC you may need to use.

In the end though, I don’t think it matters one way or another. Out of all of the users I work with that own an email capable phone, not one has ever expressed interest in using it with their office email account.

Marc Charbonneau is a mobile software engineer in Portland, OR. Want to reply to this article? Get in touch on Twitter @mbcharbonneau.