NetSuite makes its apps available via iPhone

NetSuite Inc.’s users can start accessing the company’s hosted midmarket applications suite via their iPhones as businesses start to investigate the possibilities of using the much hyped Apple Inc. mobile device at work.

NetSuite 2007.0, the latest version of the company’s software-as-a-service online suite, includes native support for the most recent release of Apple’s Safari Web browser, functionality that NetSuite has dubbed SuitePhone, the vendor said Thursday. The iPhone, which debuted in the U.S. on June 29, uses Safari as its Web browser.

Unveiled last month, NetSuite 2007.0 is being rolled out to the vendor’s existing customer base and will be available to new users in August. SuitePhone allows users to log into their NetSuite accounts on their iPhones and access the vendor’s hosted ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and electronic-commerce functionality.

Circle of Friends is giving NetSuite a try over iPhone. The 13-person company based in Santa Monica, California, specializes in personal care products for children such as shampoo, bubble bath and sunscreen.

“We’re definitely a mixed-use shop,” said Brian Keare, the company’s chief operating officer. “We have half Macs and half PCs. Personally, I use both.” Keare purchased an iPhone for his own use at home, he said. After a trouble-free experience buying and activating the device, he started thinking about whether he could use it for work as well.

Circle of Friends has previously tried unsuccessfully to access the basic online version of NetSuite from Treo and BlackBerry devices, Keare said. In May, NetSuite announced it would rely on partners to extend its suite to BlackBerries, Windows Mobile devices and Treos.

Keare did look into the third-party middleware that makes such access possible, but he found it too expensive and limited in its scope.

He’s been very impressed with the NetSuite functionality he’s able to access for free on his iPhone without having to download any additional software, he said. Keare has already entered and approved sales orders, made deposits and checked inventory from his iPhone.

“I won’t be replacing my desktop computer, but on the road or on vacation, I’ll pull out my iPhone before I pull out my laptop,” Keare said.

The firm has been using NetSuite for the past two and a half years and likes the all-in-one integrated suite, which gives its employees in the U.S. and a small team in India access to the same information, Keare said.

Circle of Friends had previously struggled with back-office applications from PeopleSoft that proved too complicated for its needs and, before that, QuickBooks Enterprise accountancy software from Intuit Inc., which was too limited in its functionality.

NetSuite began offering native support for Apple’s Safari back in 2004 and has been working closely with the vendor ever since to ensure its suite continues to support the Web browser, according to Sean Rollings, senior director of product marketing at NetSuite. The vendor positions Apple as one of its strategic partners.

Coincidentally, as Apple was ramping up to release the iPhone, NetSuite was working on its support for the latest version of Safari. As the consumer buzz about the iPhone settles down, Rollings expects to hear a lot more talk from both vendors and users about the business possibilities for the device.

Currently, NetSuite hasn’t provided much in the way of tweaking its software for the iPhone, bar the ability for users to configure their dashboards, said Malin Huffman, senior product manager at the company. Initial customer feedback suggests more tailoring isn’t required, he added.

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