Smartphones & Netbooks

By  David Krebs — September 04, 2009

A not exactly surprising, yet potentially challenging, trend emerged from recent respondents to VDC's comprehensive 2009 Enterprise Mobility End User survey: Less is more.

Or, put differently, do more with less.

When asked which mobile platforms were currently being used or evaluated for enterprise mobility applications, respondents exhibited a clear shift away from traditional "large" mobile form factors such as notebooks and towards small, portable and cost-effective solutions such as smartphones and netbooks. This research was conducted by VDC in May and June 2009 and includes responses from 657 individuals responsible for purchasing, specifying or supporting enterprise mobility solutions.

The responses point, in part, to the growing influence that consumer devices are having on enterprise mobility applications. Clearly these devices are becoming increasingly powerful. However, at what point are we sacrificing too much in terms of performance and functionality to be able to support true enterprise mobility applications?

Enterprises are keen on leveraging these platforms beyond horizontal messaging and communications to support a wide range of solutions, including specialized line-of-business applications. According to VDC's end user survey, just over 45% of respondents are using smartphones for enterprise mobility applications. In addition, almost 60% of respondents agree that smartphones are the target platform for enterprise mobility applications under evaluation.

Beyond the continued smartphone momentum, perhaps the most surprising finding is the rapid ascension of the netbook. More than a third of respondents (36%) are evaluating these low-end devices, while 16% are already using them for enterprise mobility applications.

While it is easy to write off netbooks based on their performance limitations in comparison to notebooks -- and clearly they are not capable of supporting a multitude of enterprise applications -- it is impossible to ignore them. This is especially the case for highly mobile workers or as a secondary/ companion device. 

Nevertheless, much more needs to done to support the increasingly stringent security and manageability requirements that enterprises have for their mobile clients.

Faced with increasing budget pressures, enterprises today are perhaps more receptive to leveraging these devices to support a greater variety of enterprise applications. This, in turn, is driving opportunity for services that support device and security management on this emerging class of device. 

While these devices are here to stay, it is important to view them for what they are ... and what they are not. Put another way, adopting a smartphone or a netbook for their low upfront cost may end up costing organizations more in the long term.

David Krebs is Research Director for the Mobile & Wireless Practice at VDC Research. Email him at


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