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Workers want to choose their mobile devices, survey finds

Employees also support work-related app storefronts

July 27, 2011 04:26 PM ET

Computerworld - Employees enjoy using work-related mobile apps, especially on smartphones and tablets that they choose themselves, according to a new survey from mobile software maker Sybase.

In the online survey of 500 workers at U.S. and U.K. companies, half of the respondents said that they would prefer to choose the mobile device that they use at work, instead of having the company decide. Also, 56% said work-related apps for mobile devices make them more productive. The survey, conducted in June, involved employees at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues.

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The survey also found support for the idea of having access to a work-related application storefront, similar to the App Store Volume Purchasing Program for Business that Apple launched July 20. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they would use an employer-provided online market for downloading company-approved mobile apps.

Apple's business-to-business storefront helps solve a concern that IT managers have raised since the App Store originated three years ago; it allows an administrator to pick the apps that employees can download instead of giving workers free rein in making downloads.

On its website, Apple said its B-to-B site gives an IT manager the ability to use a corporate credit card to buy apps in volume (at the same price consumers pay), including custom apps built by third-party developers. After purchasing the apps, IT managers get redemption codes for each app and then can control who gets the apps by providing the codes to users via email or an internal website. Apple's B-to-B site is open to any U.S. business.

Cisco announced a similar B-to-B application storefront for its Cius tablet. Known as AppHQ, Cisco's setup is a combination of an app store and a tablet management and app development system.

Sybase, along with its parent company, SAP, already offers a number of mobile apps for Apple's iPhone and iPad, and it stands to benefit from sales of business apps through Apple's B-to-B store. Several of the Sybase and SAP apps are free. However, SAP's Bizbox Direct, which allows routing of workflow messages without the need for email, costs $149.99 per app.

A Sybase Mobile database client app for iPad costs $7.99.

Sybase has a interest in the survey's findings, since it sells workplace mobile apps and recognizes the need for IT shops to protect corporate data and security. The survey was conducted by an independent research firm, Kelton Research, on behalf of Sybase.

The survey also found that only 19% of employees felt their bosses make it as easy to do their jobs from a mobile device as they do from a workplace desktop. Also, 44% said they don't have access to enough mobile apps for their jobs.

Only 29% reported that they felt that their IT shops were generally good at managing mobile devices.

Meanwhile, more than 30% of those surveyed admitted that they are putting company data at risk by sending work-related emails or documents to their personal email accounts.

Other surveys in recent years have also found that respondents prefer using their own mobile devices for workplace chores. But in the Sybase survey, respondents indicated that using their own devices instead of the one required by IT was so important to them that they would give up perks like free coffee, free food and office supplies to keep their own devices.

For the record, 58% said they could live without free coffee, 39% said they could pass up free food and 30% said they'd choose their smartphones over office supplies. Moreover, 26% said they'd be willing to give up free parking and 20% said they'd forgo a vacation day to be able to hold onto their preferred mobile device at work.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter @matthamblen, or subscribe to Hamblen RSSMatt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about Mobile Apps in Computerworld's Mobile Apps Topic Center.



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