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The war was won without a shot being fired. Smart devices — smartphones and tablet computers —penetrated the barricades thrown up by old-line command-and-control IT departments and threw open the gates to the heart of corporation, analysts say. And businesses are finding that these smart devices are helping them work smarter.
This year, 821 million smart devices will be purchased worldwide, accounting for 70 percent of total devices sold, according to the analysts at Gartner, an IT research firm. That figure will pass 1 billion next year.
While mobile smart devices will not completely depose the PC, the ubiquity of smartphones and the growing popularity of tablets are changing the way businesses look at their device strategies, said Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner research vice president.
"In 2016, two-thirds of the mobile work force will own a smartphone, and 40 percent of the work force will be mobile," Milanesi said.
Tablets, she said, will be the key driver in the migration to mobility. Gartner estimates that purchases of tablets by businesses this year will reach 13 million units and will more than triple by 2016 to reach 53 million units.
Android has been the big winner in the corporate arena, Gartner said, and will account for 56 percent of smartphones purchased by businesses in North America and Europe by 2016.
"Today the wide range of brands and price points that the Android ecosystem is offering is winning over users," Milanesi said. "While Apple remains the heartbeat by which the market moves, Google has rapidly become its archrival."
The loser in this scenario is RIM, whose BlackBerry handhelds were once the ultimate business badge of honor. Android and iOS-based devices from Apple will continue to increase their presence in the enterprise side-by-side and in most cases instead of RIM, Gartner said.
"As businesses are looking for a multi-device strategy and a rich application portfolio, it is clear that RIM has a huge challenge ahead in regaining its key presence in the enterprise," Milanesi said.
Over the past year, consumer preferences in devices have shaped not only the vendor landscape but also the way IT departments need to think about devices in the enterprise, Gartner said.
"In just 12 months businesses have moved from resisting Apple to accepting its devices in the organization," Milanesi said. "CIOs who balance workers' passion for Apple with the needs of IT will reap surprising benefits and prepare the business for entry of other consumer-market vendor technologies, as this is just the beginning."