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Tablet use among SMBs to accelerate

Low penetration rates and highly fragmented adoption landscape across industries are holding up tablet growth among SMBs but this will change as firms embrace mobility strategies, finds new report.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Tablet adoption among small and midsize businesses (SMBs) worldwide is gaining momentum although adoption rate is currently low and highly fragmented across industries, according to a new report.

An AMI-Partners report released Friday stated that worldwide tablet penetration among SMBs is currently at 3 percent and there is a long way to go before the device becomes a mainstream IT asset. The research firm defined SMBs as firms with less than 999 employees.

Additionally, tablet device penetration is "highly fragmented" across industries, with healthcare, hospitality, professional services and media sectors showing the most interest in utilizing the device form factor today, it noted.

However, this wave of early tablet adopters will stand to benefit from their decisions, the report stated. AMI-Partners found that SMBs which embrace mobility strategies and devices generated 40 percent higher revenue growth over the last 12 months compared to those that did not. As this trend towards a mobile workforce continues, mobile devices including tablet PCs will play an integral part in supporting these employees, it noted.

Tablets are also increasingly stepping in as a complementary device to smartphones and notebooks, which are the primary tools for mobile workforce, the report said.

Michael McDonald, senior associate of worldwide SMB sizing at AMI-Partners, said in the report: "Early adopters realize the intrinsic value in having a highly mobile device that enables users to immediately access data, process information, and respond accordingly."

Tablets spur cloud adoption
McDonald also highlighted that firms that embrace tablets are "increasingly moving additional resources to the cloud, thus further increasing the utility of the tablet".

Firms with tablets use 20 percent more software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications compared to those without, he said, citing figures from a separate AMI study.

For instance, hosted document collaboration usage among tablet SMB users is more than double that of non-tablet users, while productivity suite use is nearly 50 percent higher, he elaborated.

Consequently, this reliance on cloud infrastructure and applications has increased pressure on IT networking resources such as bandwidth. SMB tablet users are therefore increasing their bandwidth speeds to about 10 percent higher than non-users, the report stated.

"SMB adoption is expected to accelerate as broadband speeds increase and heightened competition drives prices down," said McDonald. "The tablet PC has almost limitless potential in the SMB space where the device can entrench itself as a valuable resource essential to the on-the-go businessman."

The ability of manufacturers, software providers and service providers to adapt to the changing demands of business users will be critical to the future success of tablet devices in the SMB space, he concluded.

A separate AMI-Partners survey identified security as the top concern for SMBs moving to the cloud, subsequently making services such as security and data backup among the first few cloud initiatives for many businesses.

Industry analysts ZDNet Asia spoke to earlier agreed that enterprises are fast catching on to tablets as more applications are being developed to enhance the device's usability. However, they highlighted that security risks of using apps on tablets is a critical element that all tablet users must be aware of.

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