It was only a couple of years ago that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, fatefully dismissed the iPhone as a device and as a concept – for those who haven’t seen it, check out (for posterity’s sake if nothing else) the video below;

Fast forward two or three years and we have the situation where an iPhone application is a non-negotiable requirement for someone delivering software – seemingly every day another consumer application launches it’s iPhone app – it seems if you’re a consumer facing service and don’t offer an iPhone app you’re destined to be jeered into oblivion by the crowds (or at least Fake Steve Jobs).

Beyond the consumer stuff however we’ve seen a significant number of business applications develop a specific iPhone offering. Into this fray rides Netsuite who recently announced the launch of its application for iPhone and iPod touch. The Netsuite application delivers up the expected dashboard and information overviews including;

  • NetSuite Dashboards including KPIs, report snapshots, trend graphs, scorecards, reminders, and recent records. The dashboards are interactive, allowing users to drill down and explore trends with the touch of a finger.
  • NetSuite Calendar with support for accepting or declining events and marking tasks complete.
  • Lead, Prospect & Customer records tailored to mobile sales, field service and executive leadership, including access to associated contacts, marketing campaigns, opportunities, quotes, orders, purchase history, financial history, cases, and issues.
  • Productivity tools that leverage native capabilities of the device, such as click-to-call from any NetSuite record containing a phone number, click-to-email from any NetSuite record containing an e-mail address, and click-to-map (via Google Maps) from any NetSuite record containing a physical address.

What interested me more than the functionality however was to look at the uptake for the iPhone app and look at Netsuite’s reasons for building an iPhone specific application. In the month or so since the release of the application, around 5000 people have downloaded the app – it’s early days and hard to take too much from that – but it’s a significant number of downloads.

As for the decision to create an iPhone specific application specifically, and leaving other mobile device development to their mobile partners, Netsuite have made primarily a marketing move, I put this to Netsuite, and asked them for their reasoning behind the move, they told me that in their opinion;

Apple is driving a lot of innovation in the smartphone market right now… By developing for the iPhone platform ourselves and working directly with Apple, we were able to deliver features like the NetSuite executive dashboard and provide visibility across the whole ERP cloud-computing suite, while our mobile partners have so far largely focused on CRM-centric solutions. We haven’t ruled out developing other mobile solutions ourselves, but there’s plenty of room in the NetSuite mobile ecosystem for both in-house and partner-delivered solutions, tailored for different types of businesses and users.

It’s an interesting answer but one which doesn’t really address the reasons to focus on the iPhone in particular. No doubt Netsuite have looked at their customer mix and decided that whether for marketing reasons or functional ones, the iPhone is a good bet.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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