The use of smart phones and tablet PCs by US small and medium businesses (SMBs, with fewer than 1000 employees) is experiencing tremendous growth. New York-based AMI-Partners cited nearly 3.5 million US SMBs are currently using smart phones and 700,000 using tablet PCs. In the next 12 months, AMI estimates that the number of SMBs owning these devices will increase by 40 percent and 85 percent, respectively.

The success of Apple’s iPhone, iPad and similar Android devices has spurred this charge, and the adoption en masse drives a larger demand for more specialized, business-focused mobile apps.

“The current generation of workers is never without their mobile devices. These workers already use mobile devices to email and browse the web,” said Prashanth Motupalli, Survey Research Analyst at AMI, “but they are now looking for more sophisticated business applications while not in the office. This opportunity means much more than spreadsheets and documents,” Motupalli continued.

These mobile apps are fueled by data that live in the Cloud. It is no surprise that their adoption is analogous to what AMI has observed with the Cloud; US SMBs have been adopting cloud services to meet a wide variety of business needs, starting with basic communication which-over time-led to advanced, analytics-based applications.

“Similarly,” Motupalli said, “early success within mobile apps was driven by communication applications such as email and IM. Future growth for mobile apps is expected to meet more sophisticated business needs. These applications have become ‘must haves’ for this generation of workers which is ‘always on’.”

US SMBs are looking to service providers of smart phones and tablets to offer solutions with the mobile devices to meet this need, either out-of-the-box or as a quick, headache-free add-on. Productivity suites will be the next applications to experience high growth. However, as the mobile needs of US SMBs continue to evolve, more specialized mobile applications, such CRM and analytics, will likely be next to gain mainstream adoption.

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