smb-tech-trendsSmall to mid-size businesses in North America are fueling growth in mobility spending, which now is expected to reach $71.5 billion by 2018, according to research firm AMI-Partners. In its recently released 2014 North America SMB Mobility Landscape, Opportunity Assessment & Outlook, AMI indicates that small businesses, which make up 98 percent of the 7.6 million small and mid-sized firms firms in the U.S. and Canada, drive nearly eight out of every ten dollars spent on information and communications technology (ICT) mobility-related products and services. Mid-sized businesses account for the remaining 20 percent of mobility expenditures.

The AMI study looks at the way smartphones and tablets are impacting small and mid-sized businesses. AMI associate Andrew Kirk says, “The next five years will see impressive growth in North America consumption of mobility and data plans. The smartphone market will experience a strong increase in related spending as a result of sustained repeat and replacement purchases. As tablet usage attains mainstream status, significantly stronger growth is expected with regard to SMB installed base, volume and associated spend. We’re forecasting a 21 percent CAGR in the U.S. and Canada for tablet data plans alone.”

AMI points out that faster processing power is driving the use of smartphones for tasks like credit card payment and GPS tracking that require minimal data processing but benefit from the mobile form factor. In addition to basic communications activities, tablets are being used by small and mid-sized business for productivity-related applications such as editing, sharing and storing documents. Their use for interactive and real-time communications and collaborative functions is also on the rise.

tablet and smartphoneThe AMI study examines the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon—a significant factor among mobile small and mid-sized businesses. AMI says that in their drive to cost effectively increase competitiveness and improve employee productivity, these companies are opening up their office environments to include a wider range of devices. BYOD penetration is typically higher for the more widely used smartphones (64 percent of SMBs) than tablets (54 percent of SMB firms).

Expectations for a rise in BYOD also come from other reports, most notably technology research firm Gartner who last year predicted that by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes.

Gartner vice president and analyst David Willis said of the trend, “BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades. The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs.”