By Rikke Rasmussen, Windows Phone Marketing Manager, Microsoft UK

There is no question — the smartphone market is exploding around us. While it may seem like a saturated market, IDC analysts predict this industry to grow another 22% this year as smartphones diffuse to a wider demographic.

But it’s no longer just about a funky cover or slinky ringtone. Businesses are increasingly embracing handheld devices and business applications to engage and mobilise their workforce. An important weapon in the business continuity armoury is the ubiquity of ‘anywhere, anytime’ communications tools. Moreover, if your prosperity depends on an army of ‘road warriors’, you’ll already appreciate the importance of equipping your dispersed workforce with flexible mobile technology.

A recent survey* by Kelton Research, commissioned by Sybase Inc., an SAP company, indicated mobile enterprise apps are poised to take off in 2011. The research highlighted that this year 90 percent of IT managers are planning to implement new mobile applications and nearly one in two believe that successfully managing mobile applications will top their priority list.

There are various surveys, predictions, statistics and cynics out there, all offering their opinions on the smartphone market. While each has a different opinion, they all agree on one thing: businesses cannot afford to ignore mobility solutions (hardware or software) in 2011. Because of the fundamental role mobile devices are starting to play in businesses, the decision on which device is best is not taken lightly. The most important question is no longer how visually appealing it is, but rather whether it will be an effective tool for employees. Or will the consumer features get in the way?

Demand is there for smartphones that work as hard as they play. Our own research tells us that over 90% of our target customers for Windows Phone use their smartphone for business and 61% use their phones either the same or more for business than personal use. As most of us interact with digital content every day, we have growing expectations for the range and quality of experiences available to us. In business particularly, people increasingly expect more than a palm-size workstation from their phones. In other words, users want an engaging and natural mobile experience, but business-ready access to Microsoft software and services.

Today’s business mobile devices need to be more versatile and an accessible productivity tool than its predecessors, whilst maintaining a great user experience and reducing complexity. At Microsoft our aim is to help midsize businesses like yours to squeeze more out of existing IT investments — which is why we are so proud about our offering in the mobile market. By integrating key functionality features with rich email, calendar and contacts in a mobile platform that supports business programs, we aim to help midsize companies increase productivity, efficiency and mobility. That is ultimately what it is all about.

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