iPhone, BlackBerry Battle for Small Business Market Share: Report

BlackBerry maintains a lead, but Apple's iPhone is making gains among small business owners, says an AMI report.

The small to medium-size business market is fertile ground for breaking Research in Motion's corporate smart phone hegemony, a report by IT research firm AMI-Partners indicated. Apple's iPhone, in particular, is making headway, especially with smaller businesses (SBs), according to company research. "The wealth of applications available for the iPhone makes it an attractive option for SBs," noted Karen Nielsen, senior telecom analyst with AMI. "Small businesses are less apt to have in-house IT support, making the application-rich iPhone an attractive multi-use option."

AMI's study, 2010 The Dynamics of BlackBerry & iPhone Use - U.S. SMB Market, shows a solid BlackBerry position along with a growing iPhone presence. The report also finds the iPhone is making its way into the enterprise via employees, predominantly with SBs, while SMBs with high BlackBerry penetration tend to have in-house IT staffs. As the mobility features of smart phones become standard, features and applications would drive preference, especially among SMBs with little or no in-house IT support, the report predicted.

In addition, the single vendor smart phone model within individual SMBs is fading. According to Nielsen, "Employees are driving a dual/multiple smart phone model by purchasing their preferred brand for personal reasons, and then using it for corporate access." This, in turn, is causing businesses to support multiple brands, so that employees don't have to carry more than one device.

The AMI study also revealed that SMBs supporting multiple devices have unique characteristics, many of which are favorable for smart phone suppliers, application vendors and telcos. For example, SMBs with both BlackBerrys and iPhones have the highest average number of employees and the highest average revenues, and are more optimistic about their business growth: those SMBs with both iPhone and BlackBerry phone use are the most likely to hire over the next year.

An AMI survey on smart phones in the SMB market uncovered a steadfast BlackBerry position and a "somewhat unpredictable yet completely viable" position for the iPhone. In this study, the company considered SMBs with iPhones, with BlackBerrys, and with both iPhones and BlackBerrys to consider their similarities and differences. "Vendors and retailers must prepare themselves for a multiple smart-phone environment among SMBs," the report stated. "This has already begun with BlackBerry and iPhones. The landscape will only get more expansive with other compelling operating systems in the market."