Mobile cloud applications are set to make deep inroads into the small and midsize business market, according to a cloud computing research report from IT research firm AMI-Partners. The research suggested that the expansion of mobile cloud (the use of mobile applications hosted by third-party providers) is being driven by the rapid growth in the number and utility of cloud applications, and by the cost savings and relative ease of use they offer. Above and beyond application provider revenues, telcos are expected to generate additional mobile data-driven revenues as well, the report concluded.
The AMI report found key applications used included mobile cloud CRM (customer relationship management), used by SMB sales staff to impact sales, improve time management and better communicate via their smartphones. The firm reported more widely, SMBs benefit from mobile cloud e-mail (for example, BlackBerry), which is usually more dynamic than non-hosted Internet e-mail systems and frequently less costly on a TCO (total cost of ownership) basis. SMBs are also making investments in enabling mobile access to their internal databases, inventory and related information, the report found, indicative of a broader need to have access to key data on the go.
"This offers a channel-driven play for hosters to tap into SMBs' willingness to undertake expenditures to develop mobile capabilities," the report noted. "While enabling mobile access to SAAS [software-as-a-service] applications already in use is a given, innovative business applications that allow SMBs to bypass physical infrastructure and yet operate in a highly collaborative manner will continue driving the utility of cloud mobility."
Which applications SMBs prefer to bundle, their price sensitivity and purchase channel preferences are further explored in AMI's upcoming Worldwide SMB Cloud Services Study. The study provides coverage of platforms and devices; IT infrastructure services, business productivity applications, business management/line of business applications and Unified Communications (UC). AMI said the research would be available later in 2010.
"Cloud services generally, and mobile cloud in particular, have immediate value for SMBs," said Karen Nielsen, senior consultant and telecom analyst for AMI-Partners. "This is especially true for those businesses with a mobile or remote work force aiming to reduce software expenses."
Nielsen said among medium businesses, 84 percent have a mobile work force, while 39 percent (more than one million businesses) of small businesses have a mobile work force. "Moreover, smartphone penetration is 77 percent among MBs and 31 percent, and growing, among SBs," she said. "This implies the end market for mobile cloud is adequately saturated with devices able to run mobile cloud applications and reap the benefits of hosted mobile services."