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More Small Businesses Are Using Smartphones & Tablets

The PC and laptop markets have more to fear than just consumers switching to tablets and smartphones: Small business owners are making the leap as well.

In a recent poll of more than 2,000 small business owners, Portfolio.com found that 37 percent of SMB owners have used a smartphone or a PDA in the past year, an increase of 10 percent over 2010. When asked about iPads and apps, 9 percent responded that they have used an iPad, and 31 percent responded that they used apps for business. Desktops, notebooks/netbooks, and laptop usage among SMB owners have all decreased compared to last year.

This isn't a big surprise, and Portfolio.com agrees: “It shouldn't be a shock to anyone that technology has dramatically changed the way entrepreneurs and company owners do business,” said J. Jennings Moss, Portfolio.com's editor, in a press release. “What is a surprise is how quickly some tools we thought were indispensible, like laptops, are being cast aside for mobile devices and tablets.”

EBN’s own poll shows that around 60 percent of respondents believe that tablets are hurting PC sales. Only about a quarter, so far, say PCs sales aren't being affected.

The Portfolio.com findings also show how SMB owners are significantly increasing their usage and reliance on technology, especially the Internet as a critical business tool. Among the key findings:

  • The Internet has become a more stalwart business tool for SMB owners, with 74 percent considering the Internet as one of their most valuable business tools, up from 65 percent the previous year.
  • The majority of SMB owners (55 percent) are connected to their businesses online for eight or more hours a day.
  • 70 percent of SMB owners responded that technology has greatly increased their companies' productivity and is helping their lives stay more organized.
  • 71 percent said they research products for purchase online, while 58 percent look for business news online, versus 55 percent and 52 percent in 2010, respectively.

As a former small business of one (freelance writer) for four years, I can vouch for these statistics. All of my freelance colleagues use the Internet at least as much as the Portfolio.com data indicates. However, most of us are still using PCs and laptops for the bulk of our work. That could be because of our niche — as writers, a full-size keyboard and screen are assets. However, I also know a lot of salespeople, and they use tablets and smartphones extensively. Mobility and access to information are key.

The SMB tablet/smartphone numbers aren't big yet, even though they show significant growth year-over-year. Here's what I think will be the tipping point: corporate users. When corporations start issuing tablets to employees instead of laptops, the gap will widen. I'm not sure when that will be and what needs to take place in terms of corporate IT, network considerations, equipment contracts and the like. But I do think the trend among SMBs is just the beginning.

25 comments on “More Small Businesses Are Using Smartphones & Tablets

  1. Parser
    April 28, 2011

    I think that smart phones (iPhones) and tablets (iPads) are very appealing to small businesses especially because of vast supply of easy to use apps. It allows SMB for communication and for product promotions and business presentations. The surprising fact is that large companies think the same. See Apple’s page on iPad in business – eye opening: http://www.apple.com/ipad/business/profiles/

    Medtronic employs 41000 with revenues 14.6 billions, GE employs 287000 with revenues over 105 billions, and these are just users of Apple products.

  2. SunitaT
    April 29, 2011

    “However, most of us are still using PCs and laptops for the bulk of our work.”

    Barbara,

     I totally agree with your point that many of us are still using PC's and laptops.  I am one of those who primarily use laptops though i own smartphone, because i feel it is easy to type on a physical keyboard rather than on touchkeypad. Moreover the processing power i get from PC's/Laptops is not possible from Smartphones. But i use smartphones to check email's,browse internet but not more than that.

  3. prabhakar_deosthali
    April 29, 2011

    Just the migration to smartphones by small businesses will not affect the PCs/laptops market in a big way because the backend work will still have to be done on PCs/Laptops by these small businesses. But when Cloud computing really cathes the momemtum and poularity among these businesses, they will no more need the PCs/laptops. They could directly work on the cloud thru'their smartphones/tablets. That is my prediction.

  4. Jay_Bond
    April 29, 2011

    I for one am seeing more retail businesses using tablets and other smart devices. Just last weekend I was at Home Depot with 3 large carts filled with lumber. While waiting in line an independent cashier came over and asked how I would be paying for that. When I said with plastic, she said I can take care of you now. She took out her hand held scanner, scanned all of my items then swiped my card on her scanner. She had a mini receipt printer in her apron, printed my receipt and I was out the door.

    Not only did that experience make things go quicker, it just goes to show how companies are making things easier for their customers and employees by unplugging the wires.

     

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    April 29, 2011

    Thanks for your posts all! I haven't been “out there” recently to see what is being used around businesses, but I know what consumers are flocking to (tablets and smartphones). However, even if my laptop wasn't company-issued, a laptop would still be my preference. I am going to be a latecomer to the smartphone world–I still prefer to keep my phone and PC separate and use them for completely different purposes. But I suspect I will soon be in the monority (if I'm not already).

  6. Dave Esto
    April 29, 2011

    You are correct Barbara, and I expect that once cloud computing gains a stronger presence you will be docking your tablet and using a standard keyboard and full size screen to write your articles. Nice job on this one.

  7. Taimoor Zubar
    April 29, 2011

    Traditionally, large businesses had an advantage over small businesses because of their established processes and large workforce. With the use of technology, businesses no longer need large number of workers to run the business. All they need is smarter tools and applications. This is where SMB are becoming more and more competitive and are able to compete with large organizations on the same grounds. For instance, 10 years back, in order to successfully run a business, owners would need to have a physical office with equipment and hire a certain number of staff to run the business. All this involved considerable cost. Today, business owners do not need to spend on physical office space and equipment and can handle affairs with minimal staff. That's where the cost savings come in and they can compete with large organizations.

  8. Backorder
    April 29, 2011

    Nice post, Barbara.

    You rightly point out the tipping point as corporate users. However, judging by the pace of change over to the latest, corporates might actually be on the trailing edge of this market technologically. Still volumes will spike up once, that trend sets in.

  9. Ashu001
    April 29, 2011

    Barbara,

    SMBs have always.always been at the cutting edge of Technology.There is no way out for them but to be at the cutting edge,if they have to operate with the super-slim margins(&extremely quick response times) which very often characterize their business.

    They have always been more risk taking and entrepreuneurial in nature.

    Large Corporations on the other hand  have to go through committees and committees to sort things out.And thats slows implementation and adoption of new technologies a lot.

    So not much surprising in the results of the survey here.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  10. Mr. Roques
    April 29, 2011

    I'm even dissapointed with the stats portfolio.com shows. SMBs should have a higher adoption rate (I know this list includes mom and pops shops around the US but a smartphone? That's becoming as common as water.

  11. Ms. Daisy
    April 30, 2011

    Barbara:

    Thanks for posting this interesting observations.

    I think the need to connect to customers on the fly certainly makes these protable technologies attactive to Small Businesses.

  12. Backorder
    April 30, 2011

    “.. That's becoming as common as water”

    Haha. Pace of technological advancement-Unbelievable. With iPads in more demand than supply, I often wonder if we will always understimate the need for better technology in the human nature.

  13. Himanshugupta
    April 30, 2011

    tirlapur, i completely agree with your comment. I also have a smartphone but without my PC i feed handicaped on a smaller and less poweful smartphone.

  14. electronics862
    April 30, 2011

    yeah,thats's correct..if you want to be in touch with anyone at any point of time smartphone/tablets can do this job.. but for doing more work i feel the PCs are the best choice..

  15. SP
    April 30, 2011

    Interesting and also a fact.

    PCs and workstations are going to be used now on only by developers who make apps and libraries for consumers. And consumers are going to use their apps from phones or any smart device/tablet. May be that is also like an ideal world where people use right device for right purpose.

     

  16. Ariella
    May 1, 2011

    Now, that's scary, Rich.  But I don't know if we can blame the smarthphone for the driver's carelessness.

  17. Adeniji Kayode
    May 2, 2011

    @ Rich:

    I think what you saw is a possibility, “a driver trying to check his mail while driving”  smartphone cantbe held responsible for what ever happen to such driver and moreover, he is doing it against the law.Such act should be expected as the negative side of a mobile equipment such a smartphone.

  18. Adeniji Kayode
    May 2, 2011

    I feel a smart small business should get a lot done using little.

    I expect more of large companies and small businesses to take the advantage of smartphones and tablets as much as possible

  19. Wale Bakare
    May 2, 2011

    Considering the fact that SMBs involve just few no of employees – the only set of people who may be comfortable with Smartphones and tablets are just Sales People, top managers and Admin whose tasks may be limited to checking of emails, surf internet and other management stuff.

    As pinpointed @SP and @Himanshugupta, IT expertise in general ( Developers, Web Designers, Software Engineers, Application Engineers and Database Administrator) could struggle with the usage of tablets computer in carrying out thier daily responsibilities talk less of smartphones.These people are more OK with PCs and Laptops.

    Meanwhile, in consumer market mainstream – Students, Drivers, Journalists, Bank Cashiers, Fashion Designers, and etc comparable to microscopic few ( IT People). I foresee more SMBs adopting smartphones and tablets computers.

     

     

     

  20. t.alex
    May 2, 2011

    Perhaps sales and marketing teams are equipped with tablets, not the developers.

  21. seel225
    May 2, 2011

    Such a nice article, I would definetly like to write my comments.

    Smartphones and Tablets made life so much easier, imagine if you are out of work place and u need to perform some job like scheduling a meeting with team, checking emails there Smartphones and Tablets will come in to picture, these devices are handy and easy to carry. In any organization there are employees with different roles and almost all companies will have sales and marketing department these people mostly travel for them tables and smartphones will be much useful compare to PC. But for IT team or some Admin roles can not perform their jobs with out PC. I personally like PC but i do use smart phones for checking emails,browsing info on the road, and for playing games but to do complicated tasks i prefer PC only.

    PCs are the best, and would stay long.

  22. Anna Young
    May 3, 2011

    I agree that businesses do and can rely on smartphones for quick access to various business needs whilst on the move, simply because of its portability and functionality similar to what a PC would offer. However, this does not necessarily infer a decrease in the use of Laptops, netbooks and desktop PCs. Each of these has its own niche and they will more or less co-exist for a while.

  23. Ariella
    May 6, 2011

    Rich, you'd have to admit that it is people in this case, particularly people who are careless enough to look at their mobile devices when they should be watching the road!

  24. Adeniji Kayode
    May 6, 2011

    Ann:

    I agree with you. I am yet to see smartphone and tablet satisfying all consumers need without doing so with pc. PC may start to do the “home-work” stuff but it will still be very much relevant for a long time and as at the moment ,it is not yet realistic that smartphone and tablet would definately bench pc completely

     

  25. Mr. Roques
    June 15, 2011

    What do you mean by understimating the need for better technology in the human nature?

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