I've been the first one to say in recent months that I've fallen hard for my new Blackberry . . . or "Crackberry" as I've taken to calling it.
What's not to love? You can do just about anything on a smart phone that you can on a laptop, save for writing long documents and a few other things I've stopped caring about, and you don't have to lug it around airports, train stations, and long walks across cities you happen to be doing business in that day. That's no small benefit. I once dropped my brand new G-4 Apple laptop. It spilled out of my laptop bag outside a cab at the Atlanta airport, denting the unit and causing portions my computer screen to turn a shade of blue reminiscent of the uniform of my favorite football team, the New England Patriots.
Now it seems the rest of the world is catching up to me, or me to them.
In a study by the technology firm QuickOffice, 70% of respondents surveyed say they "trust cellular devices over personal computers for reliable Web access to achieve maximum productivity." In plain English (you have to love the verbiage in technology industry press releases) mobile workers are increasingly hot for smart phones but not for laptops.
One bugaboo for employees on the go is reliability. In the QuickOffice survey, roughly 90 percent of the almost 300 mobile professionals surveyed need to check email daily while away from the office, but more than 70 percent have missed key documents while on-the-go due to faulty or non-existent Internet access on their laptops. Not being able to receive vital documents while away from the office decreases efficiency, potentially lowering revenue for an organization, the report states, and not incorrectly.
Call it a sign of the times. For mobile workers, laptops are no longer the only game in town. If you're constantly on the go and need to check in to the mother ship, smart phones and mobile applications are rapidly become a business must-have, often offering the most efficient, reliable way to connect to the Internet while on-the-go. The technology consulting firm Compass Intelligence estimates that companies will spend roughly $9 billion on mobile applications by 2011, including productivity and email solution software.
Does QuickOffice have an agenda in promoting a study that benefits its own bottom line (the company makes smart phone software)? By all means.
But I'm not questioning the study's conclusions. Walk around any airport today and count the number of business travelers peering eagerly into their Blackberries. You'll find at least a hundred before you get tired of looking. Then dial back in time five years or so and think about the amount of people using smart phones at airports. Maybe a handful.
It's like the line in that old country ballad, "Who you gonna believe? Me or your lyin' eyes?"
So, from a Wall Street point of view, look for the major laptop makers to follow the route Apple took with its iPhone and dial the mobile experience down to better, more sophisticated, handheld smart phone units. Right now, that's where the money is going.