Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are Smartphones Replacing Laptops for Business Professionals?

Are the most advanced smartphones replacing laptops? Five years ago, this question would have sounded ludicrous. Of course note! Your smartphone is for quickly checking e-mails, reviewing documents, and, of course, keeping in touch by voice communication. But today, there are so many sophisticated smartphones on the market with easy-to-use QWERTY keyboards, full document support, and "push", real-time e-mail technology, that a traveling businessperson might feel completely comfortable with leaving his laptop at home.

In-Stat backs up this thought with some juicy statistics: the unit volume of smartphones has exceeded sales of laptops worldwide; and smartphones will grow at more than 30% annually for the next five years. Of course, this could be due to the fact that a smartphone purchase is (usually) much cheaper than a laptop one, and the life span of a smartphone is likely much shorter than that of a laptop PC. (This isn't because they aren't reliable, but I think people tend to upgrade a mobile phone every two years or so; and arguably even more often with the younger generation). Plus, many traditional mobile phone users are likely shifting over to the "smart" phone arena, as models are becoming increasingly consumer-friendly, and more attractive data plans are being introduced.

With thousands and thousands of data applications available for smartphones of every ilk, a businessperson can pretty much perform any task on a smartphone that he might have previously required a full-blown PC to do. Albeit, not as comfortably (especially if he's got massive man hands!) but certainly easily enough to accomplish when necessary. If this is the case, why lug your laptop with you on a business trip when you can just slip a Blackberry or Palm Treo in your pocket and be on your way?

Of course with laptops themselves getting smaller, lighter, and tougher, is it really that inconvenient to use them on the go? I tried out Panasonic's CF-W5 Toughbook last year, and slipping it into my luggage was like bringing along a book - it was unbelievably tiny and lightweight! However, as is standard procedure when taking a flight, you will always have to endure the small inconvenience of having to take out the computer and place it in one of those filthy security trays. Plus, no matter how small a full-fledged laptop PC might get, you still won't be able to shove one into your back pocket!

Nevertheless, In-Stat predicts that much of the growth in the smartphone market will be attributed to their use as a replacement for the traditional laptop. My opinion: although smartphones make great business tools, especially while you're on the go, they still don't compare to the experience and comfort you'd get using a full-blown laptop. That said, they have come a tremendously long way over the past few years; and many are fully equipped to accomodate all your business needs while a laptop isn't in sight.

[To read a review of four of the latest smartphones, flip to Pg. 88 in vol. 6 no. 3 of here's how! magazine (*Note: clicking the link will open up a 7.45 MB PDF file)].

For more information on smartphones and the increasing growth and importance of data, stay tuned to the November issue of Marketnews Magazine.

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