Smart Phones Surge in the Enterprise

Mobile device maker Research In Motion (RIM) still dominates the U.S. smart-phone market, but a few other players are tempting technology executives with new models and network capabilities, according to research firm IDC.

IDC declared the first of quarter of 2006 a record period for the global smart-phone market, with manufacturers selling 19 million of the combined phone and data devices, a 67% increase from the same period in 2005 and 7.5% higher than the fourth quarter of last year.

Of the 57 million smart phones purchased worldwide in 2005, only 13% went to enterprises, according to IDC. In the U.S., however, businesses accounted for 60% of smart-phone buys last year. And IDC analyst Ryan Reith says the firm expects that trend to continue.

“We’re going to continue to see growth on the enterprise side,” Reith says. “That will continue to drive use in the U.S. market.” He adds, though, that smart-phone makers are getting ready to market products with greater multimedia functions to consumer audiences.

Click here to ready about smart-phone deployments from Baseline‘s May issue.

In the first quarter of 2006, 1.04 million RIM BlackBerry devices shipped in the U.S., twice as many as all Palm smart phones combined, according to IDC. RIM and Palm were trailed by Nokia, Samsung and Motorola, all of which picked up single-digit market share for the quarter. The firm was not able to say how many of those units were sold to businesses.

Total worldwide shipments were stoked by a number of high-profile product releases from top players like Palm–which released two versions of the 700 model, the 700p running on the Palm OS, and the 700w on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile–and Motorola, which unveiled the long-awaited Q smart phone.

According to Reith, bulked-up networks are also luring new buyers. One is the evolution-data optimized network (EVDO), the next generation of code division multiple access technology, now offered by Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless.

Cingular is also expected to release smart phones on a high-speed downlink packet access network, the next-generation mobile telephony protocol, later this year. Reith says that will gives technology buyers yet another option for arming their mobile workforces.

In 2005, RIM’s BlackBerry led U.S. enterprise sales, according to IDC. The Canadian manufacturer shipped 2.45 million devices to businesses, outselling its closest competitor, Palm, by more than a million units.

About one-fifth of 77 U.S. technology executives surveyed by consultancy McKinsey & Co. said they expected to spend more in 2006 to build up their companies’ mobile capabilities.