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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States


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News & Articles

March 29, 2011 |

Mobility, Portability, and the SMB Market

When it comes to mobility, SMBs have unique needs. But are vendors and their channel partners addressing those needs? Yankee Group’s Zeus Kerravala sorts it all out. By Colleen Frye

Zeus Kerravala, a senior vice president and distinguished research fellow at Yankee Group Research Inc., spoke with writer Colleen Frye about some research findings on infrastructure and applications, how the SMB is embracing mobile technology, and why “mobile” is different than “portable.”

ChannelPro-SMB: In 2009, a Yankee Group survey found that SMBs were increasingly valuing mobile technologies. What’s changed since then?

Kerravala: Tablets were just out, so much of the focus was on handsets. Workers were trying to replicate as much of the in-office experience as possible while mobile. It’s an interesting term, “mobile.” There’s a distinction between “mobile” and “portable.” Historically we’ve tried to be mobile, but we’ve really just been portable. We do calling and short messages on handhelds, but anything document related tends to be on a laptop with preloaded content. The tablet is an interesting device—it allows companies to move from being portable to becoming mobile. In a preliminary Yankee Group estimate, in the SMB space, 5 percent of workers carry tablets, and we’ve really only had one product [until recently], so that’s good penetration.

ChannelPro-SMB: And SMBs are moving to smartphones as well?

Kerravala: They are, to access more information. And the primary function for that is email. But what we’ve seen over the last year or so is WebEx works very well on smartphones so you can document share, and the bigger Droid phones can do some basic editing, so they’re not just for email.

ChannelPro-SMB: Do SMBs have special mobile needs?

Kerravala: They need to be served differently. They don’t have a big IT department to call, so the SMB worker tends to be more self-sufficient. Interfaces have to be easier to use because the manageability of the device falls to the worker. That’s why the iPhone is so popular—it’s intuitive and easy to use. A [large] corporation may choose BlackBerry or Windows Mobile because it’s a corporate standard, but the big difference is that in the SMB space you don’t have a corporate standard.

ChannelPro-SMB: Are the carriers and device makers serving the SMBs’ needs?

Kerravala: They talk like they do, but in practicality they are enterprise-focused. If I were a carrier to the SMB, I’d be trying to drive people to a self-service portal. AT&T should have an iPhone for the corporate worker. If an SMB needs support, instead of calling the carrier they should be able to go out to the community. Some larger enterprises have gone to that strategy themselves, but the SMB population is not big enough. It would be an interesting value add for a mobile provider.

ChannelPro-SMB: Is the channel helping SMBs with mobile technologies and strategies?

Kerravala: Not really. Here’s a real opportunity for someone to step up. There is no de facto standard mobility provider. I think that’s a problem. People are left on their own to figure out who to use. The channel could do it. I look at the trucks that drive around [advertising] data solutions; I don’t see “mobile” on these guys. It’s a great opportunity because the customer base is not already thinking, “We have to go to this [particular] company for this.”

ChannelPro-SMB: What should the channel focus on?

Kerravala: How to secure and manage [mobile technology], maybe managed services. The iPad is troublesome because there is no inherent built-in security. There are different software packages you can run if you want to bring a level of security good enough to make SMBs happy. They can also assist with carrier selection; maybe put together [trend data] by studying mobile patterns, such as who needs a mobile data card and who doesn’t. And managing tablets. This will be new to most VARs, and it’s certainly new to most SMBs, so a little experience could go a long way. …The VAR should embrace consumerization.

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