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Embracing the smart device explosion

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Smart devices have evolved from being a nice-to-have to a necessity, particularly for professionals, writes WESLEY LYNCH, CEO of Snapplify.

Smart devices have evolved from being a nice-to-have to a necessity, particularly for professionals. Even banks are getting in on the act, with FNB selling 10 000 devices per month.

In South Africa, there are already 2 million Android devices and 10 million smartphones being used every day, having a significant impact on businesses and consumers. For one thing, mobile devices are changing the way we view and receive news, with more than four in ten mobile news consumers in a survey by The Economist Group saying that they are getting more news now than ever before, sending print publications scrambling to meet the demand for easy, accessible mobile versions of their work.

Moreover, a recent study by IDC has shown that of organisations that allow employees to use personal mobile devices for work, 65% report greater productivity. There is a much greater sense of immediacy, with Smartphones and tablets there is little waiting for answers, and urgent matters can be dealt with without delay and irritation. Customer relationship management is also greatly improved as staff have direct, instant access to real-time business data. Overall, smart devices do make the workplace (and life in general) easier. Yes, they do provide access to distractions such as social media, internet messaging and such but if someone is prone to looking for a distraction at work, he or she will find one, with or without a tablet or smartphone.

Recently, it has been widely stated that the size of the Cloud Computing Market will grow four-fold and reach an all-time high record of $150 billion and smart devices are essentially a gateway into the cloud, allowing individuals to access company documents, emails and other essential services on the move. This provides a major advantage over competitors who are not putting their documents into the cloud and going mobile.

In 2011, 487.7 million mobile devices were sold worldwide against 414.6 million computers. Nearly 5% of overall Internet traffic came from non-computer devices. Smartphones are responsible for two-thirds of this traffic and the rest goes to the tablets. And if smartphones are way ahead, the sale of tablets increased significantly in 2011 (+100% of sales in France between January and December 2011).

But that being said, stating that these devices are replacing computers is at this point in time is a bit of a stretch. Smart devices are capable of doing specific things a computer can do, such as email, but this would never allow them to ‚’replace’ a computer. Developers, for example, can’t use their smart devices to create programs or solutions.

This does not mean that companies should make the mistake of thinking smart devices are only used for simple tasks market trends indicate otherwise. The iPad, for instance, is widely used as a teaching medium, with apps and content repositories making it an ideal single portal to content and learning.

Entertainment is another no-brainer: thanks to the possibility to embed multimedia such as video in magazines, the tablet experience is ultra-immersive, engaging and interactive. Further enriched by a rich application ecosystem, media convergence and personalisation, tablets are great for watching video, gaming, playing music and more. In addition, industries that depend heavily on content can all benefit from the very immersive tablet experience. From travel and leisure companies to consulting firms and e-commerce store fronts the list is virtually endless.

Companies should embrace the smart device market step-by-step, and grow as the market grows. Content-rich industries such as the travel or tourism trade could stand to benefit the most from integrating their digital, social and mobile media. Making your website compatible with mobile devices is a good first step, because it opens the door to a whole audience. Start by creating a site that is easy to use, keeping in mind that a finger is not a mouse pointer. Try to design for increasingly prevalent touch interactions with appropriate targets and gestures. A mobile site should not be a series of clickable link. The user must have access to the essential information on the homepage. Avoid Flash (because Apple devices can’t read them) or be sure to create a HTML version as well.

The sudden boom in smart device sales is a shadow of things to come. Companies (and individuals) should incorporate them into their daily lives as soon as possible, or risk being left out.

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