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The SMB Take on Technology Trends for 2011

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The number of 2011 "trends" and "forecasts" released in recent weeks meant that I never felt the need to come up with something similar. It doesn't mean I don't read them myself, though. So when analyst Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates-who is often quoted in media reports on business technology-put together his list of technology trends for 2011, I pored through his predictions with interest.

 

I thought a number of points mentioned in the report were relevant to SMBs, hence my decision to highlight them here today. And yes, I have also added my thoughts on their possible influence on your tech deployments and budget allocation for this year. The full report is entitled, "15 Technology Trends for 2011," and can be downloaded here (.pdf).

 

Smartphones Will Replace Fixed Line Phones for Many

 

Anywhere from 25 percent to 35 percent of business users will employ a mobile smartphone exclusively within the next 2-3 years, says Gold. Having dabbled with most of the major smartphone platforms over the last five years, I am in agreement about the versatility and power that come with modern mobile devices. Indeed, I have written a number of posts about smartphones, and have offered pointers to help ease the transition of smartphones in businesses, as well as to highlight how mobile applications can help the sales team.

 

While I'm sure there are departments or industry niches out there that require the use of fixed-line phones, SMBs might do well to re-evaluate decisions to deploy a new PBX system or any plans to update existing ones. One possible idea might be to simply forgo fixed lines for departments that are not desk-bound, and channel the money saved towards increasing mobile allowances instead.

 

Laptops to Remain a Significant Force

 

The appearance of netbooks in recent years, followed by the Apple iPad in 2010 has led to a fair amount of press coverage on how they could potentially replace full-featured workstations in businesses. In fact, I wrote a couple of articles suggesting business uses for the Apple iPad just last week. Despite the high interest in netbooks and tablets, however, the momentum behind the "fat client" desktop is substantial and will result in it remaining the predominant platform for some time yet.

 

Fueled by dipping prices and the increasing mobility of workers, it makes sense that laptops will continue to gain acceptance and market penetration. Not only does Gold contend that they will remain a significant force in the business community, he also thinks that the use of laptops will continue to increase and eventually reach 65 percent to 75 percent of corporate PCs by 2013. Tablets and alternative mobile computing platforms will eventually sap away at the total PCs deployed in businesses, but that is expected to occur starting in 2014.

 

In other words, even SMBs that wish to "play it safe" would do well to consider acquiring laptops when upgrading to enhance staff mobility. Of course, the risks of laptop theft are real, but can certainly be mitigated with a proactive physical security strategy.

 

The Growing Prevalence of Social Media Messaging

 

Another trend identified by Gold is the growing influence of social media, specifically in the area of messaging. For example, employees are probably already using services such as Facebook chat and Facebook Message for casual and business communication. Personally, I can name media contacts and friends whom I communicate with almost exclusively via Twitter direct messages, so this does not surprise me.

 

To me, the downside here has to do with how this migration outside the e-mail loop results in "traditional" archival or logging tools losing their effectiveness. SMBs-where monitoring business communications is a priority, or perhaps even a legal obligation-will want to explore new software that can capture social media streams. Of course, an alternative would be to create and enforce new policies that adequately address the growing prevalence of social media messaging.

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