iPhone and the Beginning of the End for Corporate Email?

So the iPhone is nearly on the market, and the reviews are in. Nearly every media outlet new and old, including CNBC, has been buzzing about it all week. One of the most common complaints is that the iPhone does not support corporate push email – no Exchange integration. For the business Blackberry addicted world, this is a non-starter and the common thesis goes it will significantly impact iPhone market penetration. We’ll forget about whether the keyboard will work or not for now (reviewers are saying it works well).

With this in the backdrop, I’ve been digging in deep on Facebook and applying it to my professional life. I see great potential in the platform and am already getting value from it, and also understand that challenges exist and will continue to emerge. Of course I’ve been following the blogosphere reviews on Facebook for business and came across this great synthesis by Dennis Howlett of AccMan and a member of the Enterprise Irregulars. Below is a quote from Dennis’ post that sparked my post:

Today, I see a combination of Twitter and Facebook as having the potential to replace 90% of the email I receive while improving my personal productivity. I’ve become enough of a Twitter junkie to make sure I receive updates while out and about–along with Facebook updates.

I’m not sure about the 90% number, or am I sure when it will happen. But, I have experienced the point made. The combination of Facebook with Facebook mobile (i.e. I get my inbox delivered to my phone via SMS) and Twitter (which is also delivered to my phone by SMS, and to which I was admittedly a relucatant adopter) is filling a rapidly growing percentage of my communication and collaboration needs in a way that email does not any more. I find that the message gets my attention quicker, and that the issue being discussed gets solved faster this way. Plus, whether on Twitter or Facebook, there is a record (public or private at my discretion) that I can refer back to at my convenience.

Here is a real scenario. I update My Trips in Facebook to let my friends know where I’ll be for the next two weeks. A BSG colleague notices that I’m traveling to the Bay Area and send me a Facebook message about meeting a potential business development opportunity out there. I get the message on my mobile phone, and we dialog and make the trip happen. It would be even better of the prospective opportunity is also a Facebook member and a friend of my colleague.

Another potential scenario once our Boston colleagues are on Facebook and Twitter! I send Twitters about what I am seeing at the Enterprise 2.0 conference. A BSG sales colleague in our Boston office sees that I’m in the city and at the conference, and arranges for me to come into a sales meeting on short notice the next day to discuss BSG’s outlook on Enterprise 2.0 and the impact for Next Generation Enterprises.

Notice that these scenarios do not require corporate email. In each case, the colleague may never have thought or known to reach out to me, even though some of that info may actually be in Exchange.

So, does Apple really know something we don’t about the future of corporate email? Is the iPhone a harbinger of business communication devices for the Net Generation? Would not have thunk it even a month ago, but it’s an interesting thought today and has some emerging use case support. Corporate email may never die, but it may not need to be as mobile as it is today or it may just get put back on the desktop.

^ brian

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  • MJ

    The limitation to the scenario that you’ve mentioned is the fact that because Facebook is a closed environment, someone not on Facebook can’t contact you through it. That’s the benefit of email – anyone with an email account can reach anyone else with an email account.

    I don’t necessarily see email ending — more likely converging (i.e. unified communications)

  • MJ – thanks for the reply. Yes, despite the fact that Facebook has opened the API for application development, this notion of the closed network and needing to below does limit the communication to only those willing to make the leap. I have an upcoming post on the future of social networking for business use that will address this topic with Facebook. We’ve been having an internal dialog at BSG about this issue and where it will lead.

    All that being said, I still believe some lightweight way of easily collaborating with mobile users outside of the traditional email system I do think will become de facto … once on the platform, connecting this way is highly convenient and effective.

    ^ brian

  • I too find more and more of my business communication migrating off of corporate infrastructure – phone calls on skype, sms messaging, a variety of instant messaging, plazer to let people know where I am etc. I’m starting to run into “walled garden fatigue” though; in that I have to be a member of every new thing that comes along to be sure I’ll be able to communicate with everyone. Frankly, I also wish it was all finding its way onto my mac at some point so I could spotlight it. Too many point solutions to keep track of and search.

  • Hi Jim,
    Yes, I agree that these closed networks will not do in the long term. I see some of my colleagues recruiting people to Twitter for example to make that platform more effective. For us early adopters, we have to bear the costs of the inefficiencies of being so early while also benefiting from our early usage … the benefits even early need to exceed the costs. I find that I try a lot of things and quickly bail on the ones that are not working for me.