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The iPhone Means Business

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is expected to announce new business-focused updates and a third-party software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone at a press event Thursday, but the much anticipated 3G model is likely still months away, according to analysts.

Apple previously promised an SDK for developers by the end of February. (See Where's the iPhone SDK?) It now appears the long-awaited toolkit could contain some additional features designed to make the phone more friendly to the enterprise market, says Jack Gold at J.Gold Associates.

"I suspect they may announce some form of Exchange push email connection as part of the SDK," he says, adding that the vendor would still need to update some of the security features if it is to become an enterprise contender. For instance, corporations would be looking for password protection, more encryption, and the ability to wipe to a user's iPhone if it is lost or stolen.

"Bottom line for enterprises will be: Is the security model good?" he says.

Neither Apple or AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has yet focused attention on enterprise sales for iPhone. "It has really been more of a consumer thing," notes John Hodulik, analyst at UBS Research .

The iPhone, however, has already proved popular in the high-end smartphone market. Reading, U.K.-based research house Canalys.com Ltd. said in February that Apple shipped more than 2.3 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2007, making it the third-largest supplier of "converged, smart mobile devices" in the world. These gadgets represent around 10 percent of the overall handset market. (See iPhone 3rd in Smartphones.)

Nokia remained the global market leader, shipping 60.5 million smart phones in the quarter, Canalys says. Second-placed BlackBerry 's shipments grew 112 percent year-on-year to 12.2 million, the number-crunchers found. Nonetheless, Apple has come from nowhere to edge out long-time device vendors such as Palm Inc. in less than a year.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said today that he is confident that Apple would hit its 2008 sales target of 10 million iPhones. The firm said in January that it had sold over 4 million iPhones since the device launched at the end of June 2007.

The next major upgrade that is really likely to drive new and repeat sales is the release of a 3G iPhone. UBS is still predicting that such a device will be unveiled at the summer Macworld event.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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