Business Adoption of Mobile Devices Set to Increase in Europe in 2005, Says IDC

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Recent IDC survey results have revealed that the adoption of mobile devices (handhelds and smart phones) in the enterprise is yet to reach the proportions widely predicted after the advent of high-speed WAN and WLAN services. While the IT market has a more encouraging economic outlook in 2004, lingering uncertainty has meant IT spending is focused on essential hardware renewals and infrastructure upgrades as opposed to mobilizing the workforce.

"IDC's 2004 mobile devices end-user survey demonstrates that handhelds still dominate company mobility strategies, with over 50% of respondents indicating the PDA as the preferred mobile device as opposed to a voice-centric smart phone or a PDA with telephony capability," said Geoff Blaber, research analyst, European Mobile Devices.

Corresponding with a general European slowdown of PDA sales, however, the survey also demonstrated limited intentions to purchase PDAs in 2005, suggesting that IT decision makers remain tentative in allocating funds for the purchase of non-essential hardware following a period of sustained budget limitations. However, IDC also points to this slowdown as evidence of the early adoption of converged devices (smart phones and telephony-capable PDAs), a trend that is predicted to gain momentum as the capabilities of these devices are effectively communicated to enterprises.

Despite the broad functionality and applications available on today's PDAs and smart phones, it was found to be straightforward personal information management (PIM), voice, and email access that constitute the most valued applications. This insight into the application demands of business users explains the growing popularity of RIM's BlackBerry devices, which provide business users with a "best fit" solution that meets basic business requirements without overreaching in terms of functionality.

In providing a comprehensive picture of all factors encompassing a mobility strategy, the analysis of the 2004 survey findings also investigates company intentions for wireless networks. Only 11% of respondents indicated their company had a WLAN, suggesting few businesses can justify the cost of implementing a new wireless network. This also indicates that security fears and the vast array of 802.11x standards remain inhibitors to the establishment of a complete mobility strategy.

Clarification of wireless LAN standards (802.11b combined with 802.11g is emerging as the clear European standard) is crucial in alleviating concerns over the longevity of a potentially costly wireless LAN rollout. The confusion over the potential dominance of 802.11a compared to 802.11g limited a greater number of projects during 2004.

IDC's survey also demonstrated low levels of awareness regarding the services offered by 3G, with over 70% indicating little knowledge of its advantages. While many operators are only now fully integrating 3G into their service offerings, the market clearly requires significant education. "The challenge for operators is to communicate the benefits in terms of increased bandwidth for critical applications versus cost for accessing key business applications beginning with PC data cards in the business community and expanding into the mass market via handsets," commented Andrew Brown, program manager for European Mobile Devices at IDC.

The complete study, Business User Spending Intentions - European Mobile Devices (IDC #JS04L, October 2004), presents the results concerning mobile devices (encompassing handheld devices, smart phones, and mobile phones) from its survey of European business computer hardware purchasers. Recommendations are made regarding the requirements of IT directors from vendors and predictions on how architectures will develop over the coming years.

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