smb-tech-trendsWorld shipments of smartphones will surpass the one billion mark for 2013, says market research firm IDC. The figure represents a 39.3 percent growth over 2012 driven largely by the demand for low-cost computing in emerging markets. By 2017, IDC expects smartphone shipments to reach 1.7 billion.

In addition to call, texting and shopping online, thanks to the availability of thousands of mobile apps, many business functions once possible only on a desktop or laptop now can be performed on smartphones as well as tablets. While I’m not suggesting you toss out your small business desktop or laptop, the fact is that smartphones and tablets can help you run your small business wherever you are – in the office or out.

Collaborate: Today’s cloud computing services mean that your small business information is available wherever you are. If you are on the road, you no longer have to call someone back at the office to forward a document to a customer or client. You can access it and send it on from your mobile device. Also cloud computing enables you to collaborate with others working in remote locations on the development of a document, making comments and edits for the others to see.

Video conference: Videoconferencing apps like Skype or iMeet enable you to meet with others face-to-face wherever you are over your smartphone or tablet. You’ll want to use a headset to cancel out background noises to ensure good audio clarity.

Schedule meetings: Schedule your daily events on your smartphone. Most of them come with an easy-to-use calendar app, many of which sync with calendars on your desktop or laptop.

Track finances: There are many apps that can help with your small business accounting, including tracking expenses and sending customer or client invoices. You can even use a currency converter app if you deal with overseas suppliers or customers.

Marketing: You can access your social media channels to keep posts up to date when you are on the road and want to share something with your followers or respond to a comment.

Office products retailer Staples offers a number of other ways you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a highly productive small business machine. Staples suggests:

tablet and smartphoneScanning: Purchase a pocket-sized scanner to use with your smartphone or tablet or install a scanner app to scan travel receipts, notes, agreements and business cards. Staples explains that “Scanner apps use the phone’s camera to make copies of documents, which can then be organized, tagged, emailed and uploaded to cloud storage. Some scanner apps can also merge information scanned from business cards with your existing contacts list.”

Personal projector: Use your tablet to give a presentation to one or more individuals. If you have a larger group, you can connect your tablet to a computer, television or mobile projector.

Document reader: With applications such as Documents to Go and Quick Office Pro that support Microsoft Office and Apple iWork, you can read and edit documents directly from your mobile device.

Now you can do business from anywhere, anytime. Today, however, we hope you take a break and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.