Recent studies predict the Android OS will be on 60 per cent of all smartphones by the end of this year and that it will be the top B2B smartphone operating system by 2015, Ettrick said. A key driver of Android's growing popularity is its open platform, he added. Unlike the closed Apple and BlackBerry operating systems, Android's open platform means thousands of apps (many of them free) have been developed and taken to market quickly for users. But there's also a downside, he said.
Android security concerns
"The major concern with Android is security (because) it's an open platform," Ettrick said. "IT managers are really weighing the cost/risk benefit."
Samsung has tried to address those security concerns by making all of its existing mobile business devices FIPS 140-2 certified, the highest rating granted by the U.S. government for encryption and other security features, Ettrick said.
Despite the potential security risks, many SMBs are embracing mobile devices not just because BYOD is an unstoppable force, but also because of the cost benefits. By the end of 2012, 20 per cent of companies say they will decrease the in-house IT assets they own, much of it due to employees providing their own devices for work, Ettrick said.
Looking ahead to future mobile trends, Ettrick said businesses appear to moving away from smartphones and more towards tablets. That's why Samsung introduced its Galaxy Note smartphone/tablet hybrid with a splashy Super Bowl ad campaign in January. The device even comes with an electronic pen to add drawing and handwriting capabilities to the touch interface.
It's appealing to Coreen Holder, a small business owner who attended the event. Her Ajax, Ont. firm Strategic Result provides business planning and IT consulting to companies with one to 50 employees. She has a Samsung Galaxy II smartphone but sold a tablet she bought because "I just wasn't using it enough," she said. Now she's considering buying the Galaxy Note because it rolls the smartphone and tablet functions into one device.
Although she's a one-woman business for now, Holder hopes to hire a full-time administrative staffer and take on two or three associated consultants on an as-needed basis in the next year. BYOD isn't a concern for her yet, but she wants to be ready for it as her business grows. Her focus for now is shifting from using her smartphone solely as a communication device into harnessing it as a mobile office -- precisely the kind of mobile IT advice so many small businesses are seeking today from the likes of Rogers, Samsung and others.
"It's a gradual progression," Holder said. "I don't want the function to be so much just on the gadgets."