While overall European IT sales have begun to pick up this year, "lingering uncertainty" has prompted essential hardware renewals and infrastructure upgrades rather than mobilisation projects, IDC has reported.
Newly released research from the analyst firm indicates that IT decision makers remain tentative in allocating funds for the purchase of non-essential hardware following a period of sustained budget limitations.
However, IDC pointed to the early adoption of converged devices, such as smartphones and telephony-capable PDAs, as a trend that will gain momentum as the capabilities of these devices are effectively communicated to enterprises.
"IDC's 2004 mobile devices end-user survey demonstrates that handhelds still dominate company mobility strategies, with over 50 per cent of respondents indicating the PDA as the preferred mobile device as opposed to a voice-centric smartphone or a PDA with telephony capability," said Geoff Blaber, research analyst for European mobile devices at IDC.
Despite the broad functionality and applications available on today's PDAs and smartphones, straightforward personal information management, voice and email access are the most valued applications.
This insight into the application demands of business users explains the growing popularity of RIM's BlackBerry devices, which provide business users with a 'best fit' that meets basic business requirements without overreaching in terms of functionality, according to IDC.
Only 11 per cent of respondents to the study indicated that their company had a wireless Lan, suggesting that few businesses can justify the cost of implementing a new wireless network, and that security fears and the vast array of 802.11 standards remain inhibitors to mobility projects.
According to IDC, clarification of wireless Lan standards (802.11b combined with 802.11g is emerging as the clear European standard) is crucial in alleviating concerns over the longevity of a potentially costly wireless Lan rollout.
The confusion over the potential dominance of 802.11a compared to 802.11g limited a greater number of projects during 2004, the analyst reported.
IDC's survey also demonstrated low levels of awareness regarding the services offered by 3G, with over 70 per cent indicating little knowledge of its advantages.
While many operators are only now fully integrating 3G into their service offerings, IDC found that the market clearly requires significant education.
"The challenge for operators is to communicate the benefits in terms of increased bandwidth for critical applications versus cost for accessing key business applications beginning with PC data cards in the business community and expanding into the mass market via handsets," said Andrew Brown, programme manager for European mobile devices at IDC.
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