by Thomas Wailgum

The Most Valuable Knowledge Worker Accessory

Aug 07, 20062 mins

Is it a laptop? Cell phone? PDA? MP3 player? American Express corporate card? Breath mints?

Apparently it’s a smart phone. Ya know, it’s the must-have gadget that elegantly smushes together cell phone service, e-mail and other handheld functionality, as well as a range of desirable possibilities — wirelessly connecting to the corporate network to dip into CRM and sale-force applications, for example. BlackBerry and Palm sell them. (I don’t use one myself — I’m still trying to convince my IT department to hook me up with one. Any suggestions?)

Anyway, this news is according to a survey from market researcher In-Stat, which found that more users of smart phones said that these devices are essential to their business than the users of PDAs or laptops. However, Bill Hughes, the In-Stat principal analyst in charge of this, says not to expect that there will be widespread replacement of PDAs and laptops. At least not yet.

“Wireless manufacturers have more work to do before converged phones start taking market share from other devices instead of just complementing their sales,” Hughes said in the press release accompanying the survey results of “Converged Devices: SmartPhones vs. Laptops and PDAs in Business Markets.” “Users want a number of feature improvements including better keyboards, automatic synching with other devices, applications that have the same look and feel as on other devices, and expandable screens.”

He also says that smart phones represent just 10 percent of the wireless phone market today. However, he thinks this will grow to 25 percent of the overall global market during the next five years. What I found most interesting in the results was that users are, in many cases, carrying devices that have redundant applications. “This behavior is in spite of the desire to have fewer devices,” the release stated.

So while the technology is there for IT departments to reduce the number of devices that its staffers and the general user population has to lug around, that’s not happening. That’s both a typical trend and a frustration because that means (as usual) more devices for IT to have to manage and support. And more chances for device theft and loss. (And we’re all so sick of those right now.)

What’s your company’s smart phone plans? Let me know. And I’ll let you know when I get mine.