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Even in soft economy, mobile to deploy in business if it increases productivity, researchers say

The current economic downturn will force companies of all sizes to proceed with caution as they continue to invest in enterprise mobility applications, according to a new report by Forrester Research.
When businesses are cutting workers and costs to deal with the current bear market, spending on enterprise mobility applications will continue this year, but at a much smaller scale when compared to the past few years, said Michele Pelino, a senior analyst with the research firm.
“We will see caution in what companies will invest in,” said Pelino, who authored the report, “Predictions 2009: What’s in Store for Enterprise Mobility” with three colleagues. “Companies will prioritize what they will focus on.”
Companies will be willing to invest in mobile solutions that increase worker productivity and can help shed costs from operations. The report also forecasts increased enterprise use for the Apple iPhone and non-mobile employees seeking mobile enterprise applications for their personal devices.
The research firm has forecast that I.T. spending for the U.S. market will be weak in the first half of this year. Slow growth in network equipment and software purchases are expected and I.T. services purchases will start to see little or no growth.
Vendors that can deliver solutions that increase worker productivity and save money stand to do well this year.
According to results of a survey Forrester conducted last year, 40% to 60% of businesses in Europe and North America said it’s important to increase mobile support for workers and form mobile strategies. This will continue this year because enterprise mobile applications can help companies make their workers more efficient and productive.
Companies will also scale back on implementing strategic plans for improving mobility for workers because of the current economic climate.
“There will be a decline in spending in all areas,” Pelino said. “Companies will break up larger projects in smaller prices so they will see the benefits along the way.”

iPhone fans in the enterprise
Although Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry smartphone continues to be the top choice for businesses, the consumer-friendly iPhone will continue to gain traction in the enterprise market, according to the report.
The report forecast that the iPhone will see growth among small businesses because these companies do not have strict I.T. departments. Pelino said large corporations tend to choose one operating system, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile or Symbian, and then outfit their employees with those types of handsets.
But Pelino said that as the iPhone continues to make inroads into the enterprise market, larger companies are starting to think how to incorporate the iPhone into their I.T. departments.

Mobile wannabes
The number of non-mobile workers who want enterprise applications on their mobile devices is also expected to rise. Pelino classifies these workers as the “mobile wannabe.”
Enterprise applications for this area of the market is expected to increase 10% by the end of this year and continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 46% through 2012.
“These are workers who bring their personal mobile device into the workplace,” she said. “They want to get the device support for e-mail, calendar and other work-related functions to be more productive. This group will continue to grow and will need support.”
With this growing segment, vendors this year will start to offer products and services geared to these workers, according to the report. Handset manufacturers may also offer devices that meet personal and business needs for customers. This segment should also spur application and software developers to offer user-friendly versions of enterprise functions like e-mail, calendar and other corporate solutions.
“These are workers who are going to their I.T. department and saying, `This is my personal device but I want the ability to do enterprise related applications,’ ” she said.
The report also forecasts that a fragmented enterprise mobility vendor ecosystem will continue to move toward consolidation as larger vendors continue to acquire smaller companies.
Even though this year is expected to be a soft market, companies that cater to the enterprise will be ready when the economy rebounds, according to Sean Ryan, a research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Enterprise Software program.
“This market is poised for stronger growth, upon market recovery, as converged mobile device shipments remain strong, awareness of mobile device management grows, and enterprises look to mobilize more applications,” Ryan said.

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