Large Firms Want to Get Smart

Large British companies are positive about the potential business benefits of smartphone devices that would allow their staff to use sophisticated applications while on the move, according to a survey commissioned by middleware company Intuwave.

The firm, which generates software for smartphone applications developers, got market research firm Vanson Bourne to grill 100 telecom managers in companies with a turnover greater than £50 million (US$80 million) in order to judge the general enthusiasm for the gizmos (see Big Brits Fancy Smartphones). Although less than half, 45 percent, of the entire sample said they would consider deploying smartphones as a business tool, that figure rose to 52 percent for those companies with an annual turnover in excess of £250 million (US$400 million). Those with revenues between £50 million and £250 million were less keen, with just 35 percent saying they would consider such a deployment.

However, the table below shows there is a lot of uncertainty. High percentages of executives answered "don't know" when asked if they would deploy smartphones, suggesting that such devices are something of an unknown quantity. Particularly encouraging for those in the smartphone sector is the small number of very large companies that dismissed the idea of deploying smartphones altogether.

Table 1: Who would use smartphones as a business tool?
Would you consider deploying smartphones as a business tool? TOTAL �50-250m More than �250m Retail, Distribution & Transport Finance Manufacturing Other Commercial
Yes 45% 35% 52% 40% 40% 43% 56%
No 15% 28% 7% 20% 8% 22% 12%
Don't know 40% 38% 41% 40% 52% 35% 32%
Source: Intuwave

Of the particular verticals broken out by the survey, finance shows the most encouraging signs for deployment, with just 8 percent dismissing the idea, though there is a large proportion of "don't know" answers. The number of "yes" answers, however, was very even across the three identified vertical markets: Finance (40 percent said they would deploy smartphones); Retail, Distribution, and Transport (again, 40 percent); and manufacturing (43 percent will adopt).

So what is causing the large degree of uncertainty among large corporates? The table below shows the managers interviewed to be reasonably confident about the functionality on offer from these devices, but other elements have yet to be proven: namely, whether the staffers armed with these application-rich devices will be any more productive, and whether the deploying companies can expect a quick return on their investment.

Table 2: Perceptions of smartphone devices
Which of the following features do you associate with a smartphone? TOTAL �50-250m More than �250m Retail, Distribution & Transport Finance Manufacturing Other Commercial
A handset that can install and run mobile applications 72% 73% 72% 76% 68% 61% 84%
A device that uses multimedia messaging 52% 48% 55% 52% 56% 43% 56%
A phone with an advanced graphical user interface 44% 38% 48% 32% 44% 57% 44%
Don't know 18% 10% 24% 12% 20% 17% 24%
All of these 9% 10% 9% 8% 8% 9% 12%
Source: Intuwave

Smartphone devices are just starting to make an impact in the market (see MSFT Unveils CDMA SmartPhone, MS Hints at Smartphone Strategy, and Orange Uncovers Its SPV) -- though sometimes for the wrong reasons (see Sendo Sues Microsoft and SPVs Go AWOL). And market forecasters such as Allied Business Intelligence (ABI) believe the uptake of smartphones will be driven by the increasing desire of wireless subscribers to replace existing handsets with the latest feature-rich devices (see Report: Smartphones Will Rule).

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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