I've got some preliminaries on the CRM iPhone bakeoff. For those of you with ADD or who really haven't paid that much attention for many a good reason I can even think of, a few weeks ago, I announced a "bakeoff" for iPhone CRM apps which for some reason proliferated quickly. At the time, I said I would review NetSuite, saleforce.com, Etelos, HEAP, and EBSuite. I decided in the course of it to not review salesforce.com because, to be fair, while they told me (and I believe them), that salesforce works on the iPhone, they, unlike the other four, didn't have version they specifically developed for the iPhone, so to review it in this bakeoff wouldn't be fair to the other entries. So I didn't.
That said, I will take a look at it but not in the context of the bakeoff.
Okay, here's the preliminary findings which I presume are no particular surprise. I've looked at NetSuite and Etelos so far so I'm going to give you the findings for them. Keep in mind, I'm not commenting on their general functionality here. I'm commenting on how well their iPhone specific versions worked - with the iPhone.
I have first tell you, both of them, and I suspect this will carry over with HEAP and EBSuite, are BEARS when EDGE is in play. Ain't their fault, its Apples and AT&T for hooking up with EDGE compatibility. It is PAINFULLY slow to use, even with the small amount of disturbingly limited functionality that Etelos has. With Wi-Fi working, though, its another ballgame. I wouldn't say its lightning fast but it works effectively and, most important, you aren't grinding your teeth or brushing them thoroughly while waiting for a screen to either refresh or come up. So, with the assumption that these things just ain't worth the agony with EDGE, but Wi-Fi advils away the pain, the bakeoff goes on.
I guess not surprisingly (though why I expected something different, I don't know) the functionality in both NetSuite and Etelos carries into their iPhone versions. Etelos functionality is as bad with the iPhone as it is with their CRM for Google app, and makes some strange choices for a CRM application (for Google - or anyone for that matter) like setting up roles for project manager and developer for a CRM (not a PLM) application. On the other hand, NetSuite is an end to end enterprise application that can compete with the on-premise giants for the completeness of its functionality for CRM and ERP and order management and....you get the picture.
So I was pleasantly surprised in the not-particularly-planned head to head that NetSuite was far less buggy than Etelos. Etelos crashed on me several times - just threw me out of Safari and I had to reload. NetSuite somehow got around this was was stable
For example, with Etelos, I got a message four separate times that I had too many screens open when I had one open beyond the one I was trying to open. This seemed somewhat random because I didn't get it other times in the exact same circumstance.
Never had that problem with NetSuite.
Aside from the EDGE problem which made NetSuite unusable with the iPhone, NetSuite's only problem is that its screens are so functionally rich that limiting the view to a 3.5" screen creates some navigation issues that are uncomfortable, if not insoluble. I used the iPhone "pinch" to expand screens far more frequently than I would have liked.
Both apps of course suffered from that other iPhone limitation, lack of security. Not much you can do when you can't guarantee the security of the data you are staring at when the phone itself is the limitation.
Frankly, using the iPhone for CRM on EDGE is probably not worth it unless the circumstances are dire - or soemthing akin to disastrous. Much as I love my iPhone and think its the coolest gadget I've ever owned and can actually use it for my mini-me business empire, you're far better off using the Blackberry CRM applications that are coded for the Blackberry itself. They are fast even on EDGE and even do the same things that - meaning that they are supposed to.
If you have LOTS of WiFi access, then NetSuite on the iPhone is clearly the way to go because its...well...NetSuite and its one of the best on demand applications on the market. Etelos just sucks whether its web-based or iPhone based. The child doesn't get too far from the mother here. They have a long way to go to prove that they should even be calling what they provide CRM - though, of course, they can if they want. But its up to you, whether you believe them or not.
Next up: EBSuite and HEAP for the iPhone. Will they transcend EDGE or fall off it?