Smaller companies are spending more on mobile services and devices, according to a new survey, with potential to stall their IT adoption.
Given the rise of mobile devices in both the consumer and
business spheres, it's perhaps no surprise that small and midsize businesses are spending an increasing
amount on tablets and smartphones.
A newly completed study by the research firm SMB Group
suggests that SMBs (which it defines as companies with 1 to 999
employees) invested around $26.1 billion in mobile solutions and services in 2010,
a rate of spending it predicts will increase by 17 percent "for the next few
Of SMB's mobile budgets, voice and data services consumed 69
percent of the funds on hand, trouncing mobile applications spending at 12
percent, devices at 11 percent, and device/application management at 8 percent.
"In the U.S., mobile-service providers typically subsidize
mobile-device costs as part of their two-year mobile-service contract
subscriptions," SMB Group analysts Laurie McCabe and Sanjeev Aggarwal wrote in
a research note accompanying the data. The result is "lower spending for mobile
devices, which would cost two to three times more if they weren't subsidized."
The analysts concluded that while voice and data services
currently consume the lion's share of mobile budgets, "spending for mobile
applications grew about 30 [percent] faster than it did for voice and data
Smaller businesses with 1 to 19 employees spent
the most on mobile services, solutions and devices, at least on a per-employee
basis. "Average mobile spending per employee also decreases as company size
increases," the analysts wrote. "As companies grow, they have more formal
mobile policies that encourage mobile plan sharing, and can take advantage of
volume discounts to help cut spending."
Per-employee spending on mobile-service plans apparently
averages $1,056 for companies with 1 to 19 employees, nearly twice as
much as at firms with 50 to 99 employees. By contrast, those smaller
firms spent $150 per year per employee on mobile devices, somewhat more than
the $101 spent per employee at firms with 50 to 99 workers.
Despite the opportunities that mobile devices and services
offer SMBs, the high cost of service plans can threaten to stall those
companies' technology roadmaps and spending on new devices. "This is
particularly true in very small businesses, where 40 [percent] cite high voice
and data costs as a top barrier to mobile-solution adoption," the research note
added. "Even when we look at the total small- business group (1 to 99 employees),
37 [percent] say these costs are their top obstacle. As a result, today 43
[percent] of small businesses offer voice-text-only phones and plans to
Recognizing that employees are increasingly mobile, a number
of manufacturers have been pushing their tablets and smartphones as ideal for
business use. Research In Motion, for example, is developing
its 7-inch PlayBook tablet
, the better to compete against the Apple iPad
and Google Android tablets that have been making inroads into the enterprise