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Nine Technology Trends for Asian SMB’s

Monday, July 11th, 2011

The first quarter of 2011 has come to pass and the AsiaPacific region is fast moving into an era where several new and innovative technologies are changing the way people in the region interact with one another, find entertainment and do business.

Small and medium businesses in Asia, made hungry by the recent economic downturn, have recovered more strongly and rapidly than their European and American counterparts.

This can be attributed in part to these SMBs adapting new strategies for addressing key business constraints by using innovative technologies that are not only cost-effective but are bringing in much needed revenues which SMBs need to survive. The following describes some of the top technology trends more and more Asian SMBs are heading towards on the road to greater stability and survivability in the ever-changing global market.

Trend 1: Mobile Applications and the Mobility Market Taking Off

The tremendous popularity of mobile internet-ready devices has encompassed the world, but it is much more evident in the Asia-Pacific region. Smartphone sales have reached phenomenal growth rates in the region, ranging from 32 percent to as high as 90 percent growth year-on-year (YoY), and they are expected to balloon much further in 2011. A significant part of this is the exploding popularity of mobile applications, which have now entered the realm of the SMB arena in coming out with applications that are both interesting and useful for small and medium business applications.

A resultant effect of the popularity of mobile devices is the growing trend towards mobile eCommerce, with Asian companies such as Tencent and Baidu in China, Rakuten in Japan and NHN in Korea dominating the mobility marketplace ahead of their western counterparts. Industry experts are predicting that by 2014, the mobility market will reach revenues of over US$1 trillion, with mobile payments made quadrupling in amount and which would reach figures amounting to US$630 billion.

Trend 2: Cloud-Based Services are Here to Stay

Small and medium businesses are now relying more on technology which they have shunned in the past due to budget constraints, but which are now being made available and cost-effective through cloud-based services. These services offer an inherent pay-as-you-go model to gain access to IT efficiencies that small and medium businesses will need on their road towards recovery and growth.

Over 30 percent of Asian SMBs have already embraced the cloud and many more have signified their intent to do so this year or in the next couple of years. According to Forrester Research, the global cloud computing market will reach levels of up to US$116.5 billion. In a similar report from Gartner, it is expected that 20 percent of all businesses will use cloud computing instead of maintaining their own IT assets.

Trend 3: Emergence of Social Media Management Solutions

Social media has grown into a very powerful marketing channel in the modern era that businesses are jumping into in the quest for their piece of the online pie. There are now over 700,000 small and medium businesses maintaining active pages on Facebook, contributing to the more than 3.5 billion content items shared in this social media site each week. They are also taking an organic part in the millions of tweets and blog posts talking about brands, products and services.

However, the sheer quantity of content floating around in the social media space forces businesses to spend considerable time and resources to sift through the chaos in order to monitor and manage their brand or company’s social media presence. Social media management solutions are now emerging to help businesses integrate and manage social media marketing interactions across multiple venues. With such solutions, businesses can drive more businesses through their social media investments and easily spot new opportunities amidst the chaos that is social media nowadays.

Trend 4: Apps become Key Channels and Sources of Information

The popularity of both web-based and mobile apps continue to grow strongly this year and on into the coming years, evolving in function from mere entertainment smartphone add-ons to becoming useful and innovative business and efficiency tools for small and medium businesses. Half a million apps are downloaded each and every hour and an average smartphone user has at least 22 apps on their device at any given moment.

Apps are now poised to evolve beyond the smartphone and will soon enter the realm of Internet TV, desktops, web browsers, Blu-ray players, and even car multimedia players. This would make the app a key channel and source of information for potential consumers to get to know more about the products and services a particular SMB provides. This makes apps an excellent choice for SMBs in the Asia-Pacific region that are trying to find which technology they might delve into in order to reach a wider and more targeted customer base.

Trend 5: Rise of the Tablet Makes Apps Even More Popular

With the innovative functionality of these devices compounded by the wide variety of business-applicable apps available for use, SMBs are finding smartphones a great help in running and managing their businesses. But experts are seeing that the scenario may change in the near future – with the entry of the tablet.

Tablet PCs offer even better functionalities over the physical limitations of the smartphone, so that SMBs in the Asia-Pacific region are starting to turn their attention towards what this device family can offer. Adoption among SMBs is incredibly strong even after only a year of introduction, with 10 percent of small business and 22 percent of large businesses now adapting and using tablet PCs. This trend is expected to continue growing as later versions of tablets from more vendors are being introduced into the market.

Trend 6: Business Intelligence Solutions Taking Off

The amount of digital information uploaded everyday into social networking sites, online video sharing networks, digital photography uploads, and mobile phone uploads has passed the 1 zettabyte mark in 2010. That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes, or 1 followed by 21 zeroes. According to the International Data Corporation, this amount will continue to multiply by up to 44x during the next decade.

With the amount of information available online, Asian businesses might find it hard to gain relevant insight that will help them measure and manage their businesses. With business intelligence solutions made more practical and less complex, as well as more cost-effective, for small and medium enterprises, such businesses can now more readily make sense from all the clutter of information by sorting through and streamlining their data collection, analysis and reporting.

Trend 7: Integration Will Be a Major Factor for Selection of Key Business Solutions

There are several technologies and business solutions available for Asian small and medium businesses, with cloud computing and social media management solutions at the top of the priority lists. However, although these solutions offer cost-effective and manageable channels that SMBs can use to run and manage their businesses, many would still prefer that all these solutions synchronize, interact and share information with each other – as an all-in-one integrated business solution for the SMB.

This turnkey integration is required by SMBs to gain the full value and benefits from these myriad technology solutions at their disposal. A solution that can not be integrated into the mainstream system will be discarded or not selected in the first place, despite its promise as an excellent stand-alone solution. SMBs would rather choose a comprehensive and integrated business solution suite as part of their key business option.

Trend 8: Faster Virtualization Adoption by Adopting Hybrid Computing Solutions

Virtualization solutions offered by unified data centers can be the most cost-effective computing solution small and medium business in the Asia-Pacific region can adapt. However, there are still several concerns being raised by SMBs, particularly in areas concerning security, stability and the ease of management of virtualized environments. Vendors should do their part to educate SMBs regarding virtualized environments and what they can do for businesses, particularly with their data center needs.

Trend 9: Adoption of New Communications and Collaboration Solutions

Communication and collaboration have always been two of the most important aspects for any business, perhaps more so now than ever before. Asia-Pacific businesses wanting to enter a wider and more global market base need to have a continued convergence with their communications and collaborations infrastructures to be able to communicate with customers from any part of the world.

According to market research, 20 percent of small businesses and another 32 percent of medium businesses have adopted or are planning to adopt new communications and collaborations solutions this year or in the near future. Many of these solutions are web-based, which can make it easier for employees to conduct their day-to-day business activities such as sharing and managing information and resources more effectively, right through their own web browsers. Management can easily get in touch and collaborate with their staff, employees, and suppliers as per their needs at any given time.

Analysts and industry experts are seeing 2011 as a year of growth for small and medium businesses, not only in the Asia-Pacific region but worldwide as well. An increase of opportunities is becoming available for SMBs in terms of technologies and solutions that will help these businesses increase sales for their brands, products and services.

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