What a day! Super-car driving and Super-phone integration.

by Mike on March 6, 2008

imageIt’s been a busy day today. Today, I was at the iT Showcase Live event at Mercedes-Benz World, Brooklands. It was fairly quiet for an exhibition, although the exhibitors didn’t give much away, Mercedes did – running rides of their AMG performance vehicles all day long. I managed to get a free pass and a spine-tingling face-breaking trip in a lovely new supercharged 500bhp CLS 63 AMG. When I finally got home, news was breaking that Apple had licensed the Activesync technology from Microsoft for use in their iPhone. This means a great deal for the IT industry, and I shall explain later. First however, the car..

I’ve ridden many times in a Mercedes E-class, and from the inside this car feels just like a big comfortable and heavy Merc. However it goes from 0-60 in just over four seconds and drops from 60-0 so quickly that I can only describe the feeling as having your face pulled off. If you have never experienced two tonnes of classic car stopping from 60mph in a handful of feet I can recommend it. It’s no wonder that Mercedes make you sign a damages waiver first. 

Our driver was a professional test driver who has done work on TV for programs such as Top Gear (apparently he wasn’t the Stig) took us on a tyre-shredding, power-sliding, epic tour of the test track facility at Brooklands. I had completely forgotten the conference event within a few moments of setting off. I simply suppose it is too much to ask delegates to work whilst such supercharged temptations await :) I am going back, this time for lessons behind the wheel. I highly recommend a trip to Mercedes Benz World for everyone (they even cater for kids as young as 2 years old, but you can’t ride the AMG cars unless you’re able to sign the waiver!).

After a quick tour of the rest of the “world” we bypassed our office and came straight back home to find another treat. News is breaking from California that Apple had licensed the Activesync platform for the iPhone.

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http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/06/live-from-apples-iphone-press-conference/

ActiveSync is the bundle of Microsoft technologies that allows Microsoft Exchange (Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, etc) and your PDA/Phone to talk to one another over the internet. It allows business users to connect directly over the airwaves in the same way as RIM’s Blackberry does, only much more directly. This is big news for Apple since their product could only previously integrate with Exchange using IMAP (synchronised email) only. Now, full calendar, contacts and task management is planned together with the facility to remote wipe the iPhone in case it gets lost with valuable business data on it.

The specific features billed for release are:

  • Push Email

  • Push Calendars

  • Push Contacts

  • Global Address Lists

  • Cisco IPsec VPN

  • WPA2/802.1x wireless authentication

  • Remote wipe

There is no question that this unveiling has massive repercussions in the IT industry, notably:

  • Microsoft may lose market share now that for the first time ever, a rival mobile operating system can use Activesync for (push) email, calendar, tasks on the go.

  • Apple will start to gain business customers who use Microsoft Exchange (isn’t that almost everybody these days?)

  • RIM will lose market share to Apple since there is a new player in town who provide both hardware, software and integration experience for an “out of the box” mobile email solution. RIM require the use of their proprietary synchronisation technology middleware, and charge for it. Apple have licensed Activesync directly from Microsoft – so your iPhone will talk to your Exchange server – for free. And it will be fast, too.

In the end, even in the IT industry we’re all consumers. We all have a rising need for access to our data at all times. Until recently I have been referring our customers to using Windows Mobile solutions, however these have tended to require a fair amount of customisation and haven’t worked well out of the box until recently. Apple specialise in selling the hardware and software working together in a very well integrated package – much like RIM already do in this space with the well marketed Blackberry. However Apple have the advantage with the better hardware and software offering, and Activesync is a real benefit to system administrators as it is easy to use and natively supported within Exchange already.

RIM will need to innovate to survive. Microsoft have lost a substantial portion of their unique selling point (activesync/office integration) and it looks like Apple is “for the win”. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out through the next quarter of 2008.

What are you views? I’d love to hear about the car, as well as the Apple/Microsoft deal.

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