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3/24/2010
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SMBs See The Future Is Mobile

Despite the cost cutting prompted by the great recession, SMBs are holding the line on wireless spending and see mobile as crucial to remaining competitive and surviving.

Despite the cost cutting prompted by the great recession, SMBs are holding the line on wireless spending and see mobile as crucial to remaining competitive and surviving.Between CTIA Wireless, DEMO, and VoiceCon, we are awash in mobile news this week. Dell's rolling out its first smartphone, Sprint and HTC lifted the curtain on the first 4G smartphone, and Verizon is launching mobile Skype for its BlackBerry and Android users.

All this bling has early adopters in myriad metaphorical states from frothing at the mouth to champing at the bit to lay hands on the latest and greatest. There are SMBs among those who reach for newest and shiniest objects, no doubt, but the more classic model for owners and managers in smaller businesses is that of the second mover; a pragmatic approach to technology adoption with an emphasis on reliability and value over bleeding edge feature set. With predictions for the future of mobile reaching a fever pitch of late (Eric Schmidt et. al.) does this paradigm still hold.

Last week, AT&T released survey data focused specifically on SMBs and wireless technology. The AT&T Small Business Technology Poll findings indicate that nearly two thirds (65%) of small businesses would not survive or would struggle to survive without wireless technology and more than eight of 10 (81%) use smartphones for business. Despite the economic downturn, more than 80% of businesses have not decreased spending on wireless technology from 2008 levels.

This reliance on mobile by smaller companies indicates that perhaps the "wait and see" conventional thinking isn't as prevalent when it comes to mobile. Moreover, with newer companies it's likely inverted: the survey indicates that newer businesses are more reliant on not only wireless, but all technologies than established businesses and tend to adopt them more quickly. Of businesses less than two years old, 53% rely "much more" on wireless compared with only 38% of companies in business for 10 years or more.

Looking ahead the future does indeed look to be mobile. Almost three quarters (74%) of small businesses expect to depend more on wireless in two years than they do today and the number of businesses that believe wireless technology enables them to remain competitive has tripled over the past 3 years from 16% in 2007 to 49% today.

The AT&T Small Business Technology Poll results are based on an online survey of more than 2,000 small business owners and IT managers in the U.S. conducted in November 2009. The complete findings are available here.

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