By Chris Nicholls

SAN FRANCISCO: The new 3G iPhone has played right into the hands of business users, with Apple chief executive Steve Jobs announcing, as expected, full Microsoft Exchange support for push e-mail.

The announcement came as Jobs’ showcased the phone at the San Francisco Worldwide Developer’s Conference. He said the new 3G iPhone would enable users to sync with their inbox via ActiveSync, look up contacts and calendar entries stored in Outlook in real time, and most importantly for IT managers, allow secure virtual private networks (VPN) access via Cisco’s IPsec VPN.

"Enterprise support: as we explained earlier, full Exchange support. All secure VPN, everything everyone’s asked for is built-in. We’re on exactly the right track, we can now check off enterprise support,” he said, in trademark Jobs style.

The ability to use secure VPNs rose as a potential fly in the iPhone ointment prior to launch, with some analysts suggesting an iPhone without such support would have trouble obtaining a foothold in business communities.

The push-email system is also available for other, non-Microsft users, along with contact and calendar capability as part of Apple’s new MobileMe system, which enables users to sync these items wirelessly with their Mac desktop or laptop computer 24/7. It is available in the US for US$90 a year, with 20 GB online storage.