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1/12/2011
08:09 PM
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
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Top 10 SMB Predictions For 2011

We dusted off an old piece of tech -- the crystal ball -- to see what the New Year has in store for small and midsize business. 2011 will without a doubt be the year when "trend" becomes "normal" in a variety of business areas, from mobility to virtualization to social marketing. And while certain industry lingo might simply become part of the everyday vocabulary, the term "SMB" itself is likely to be thrown around even more loosely than it was in 2010, by vendors, politicians, and a host of oth




The coming year will be the year that tablets go from niche to normal in small and midsize business environments, as the improving functionality and uber-portability of the devices make them a viable, reliable computing option for business users. With Microsoft joining Apple (and its rumored second-generation iPad), Samsung, Dell, and other key players in the market, the tablet wars will likely get vicious and put downward pressure on prices -- music to the ears of cost-conscious SMBs.

The popularity of SMB as a buzzword in its own right will grow with a certain amount of irony, too, as its definition blurs and the market becomes increasingly segmented. As owners and IT managers gear up for what many feel will be a better overall year for businesses of all sizes, here are 10 forecasts for the next 12 months.

SEE ALSO:

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Tablets Will Replace One In Three PCs, Study Says

Tablets Will Sell Well, Be Trashed Often

CES Tablet Extravaganza: Motorola, RIM, Toshiba & Asus Stand Out


Smartphone adoption among consumers and businesses alike will continue to rocket ahead, and as both user pools grow more sophisticated, so will location-based marketing. Services such as Foursquare, Yelp, and Gowalla have already been joined in the fray by players with deep pockets like Google and Visa. SMBs will embrace the marketing channel in mainstream numbers in 2011.

SEE ALSO:

Google Places App Arrives For iPhone

Google Going Local With Place Search

How SMBs Can Profit From Local Online Advertising

EBay To Buy Local Shopping Engine Milo

Top 20 Apps For Managing Social Media

Yelp Intros Check In Offers

GPS Survey Reveals Brands Consumers Seek

Shopkick, Simon Properties Planning Location Based Coupons


The now-widespread options in both hardware and applications will usher in the mainstream reality of the mobile business, especially among smaller firms. Smartphones, tablets, maturing business applications, and cloud computing mean companies are no longer tied to a physical location and make SMBs more agile than ever. 2011 is the year when mobility morphs into standard business operating procedure.

SEE ALSO:

Best Mobile Apps For Busy Professionals

12 Essential Android Apps For SMBs

Top 10 BlackBerry Apps For SMBs

17 Essential iPhone Apps For SMBs

How To Manage Mobile Devices

Top 10 Mobile Stories Of 2010


To be sure, expect to see the cloud in heavy rotation in marketing and advertising by vendors. But for SMBs, cloud will stop being a buzzword and simply be a routine part of getting things done. This could prove especially true for the software as a service (SaaS) industry, where smaller companies have driven adoption at twice the rate of their big business counterparts.

SEE ALSO:

Cloud Computing Baffles Midmarket

Six Cloud Computing Benefits For SMBs

Practical Analysis: How Much 'Cloud' Do You Really Want?

How To Protect Your Company In The Cloud

Informed CIO: Cloud Contracts and SLAs

Businesses Hazy On Security Of Cloud Applications

Security Questions To Ask Your Cloud Provider

SMBs See Opportunity In The Cloud

SMEs and the Cloud: How Much Is Too Much?

Cloud Security Pros And Cons


Speaking of buzzwords, expect to hear "SMB" and all of its variations -- small, medium, smaller, midsize, etc. -- early and often in 2011. The term will be an increasingly used by vendors, marketers, government -- and, yes, the media -- in the New Year as the economy continues its return from the dark days of recession and business spending picks up. The SMB label comes with malleable definitions that can suit an equally wide range of interests, good and bad, making it a favorite to drop into sound bites and sales pitches.

SEE ALSO:

Top 10 SMB Stories Of 2010

Is Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Right For SMBs?

Google, SBA Reach Out to Small Businesses

Small Businesses Get Busy With The FCC Broadband Plan

How HP Plans To Rule The SMB World

SMBs Do Software Different


Expect SMBs to set out on the potentially rough road to Windows 7 en masse in 2011 -- especially those businesses that skipped Vista (In other words, most of them). The clock is ticking on XP's support lifecycle, which ends in 2014. With migration projects likely to run long-term, the calendar -- and fear of its rapidly turning pages -- will spur action, with Office 2010 deployments to follow suit.

SEE ALSO:

Study: Windows 7 Halves SMB Support Costs

Dell Kace Speeds Windows 7 Migrations

LapLink Simplifies Windows 7 Upgrade

Windows 7-To-XP Downgrade Lives On

Top 10 Microsoft Stories Of 2010


The recession was declared over in 2010, but it didn't often feel that way in the trenches. 2011 is shaping up to be a better year for everyone -- in other words, the year when theory meets reality in terms of economic recovery. Smaller firms will begin investing more in their IT infrastructures; though don't expect a gold rush. SMBs know better than to begin partying like its 1999, and will make smart, methodical spending decisions, and so expect a deliberate uptick over the course of the year.

SEE ALSO:

Global IT Spending Projections Down Slightly For 2011

Midmarket Leading Us Out Of The Great Recession

When Should SMBs Replace Older PCs?

12 Easy Ways To Cut Your Company's Tech Costs Now!

Why Startups Get A Free Pass During A Recession

Most Software Execs See Rebound This Year


Smaller companies will move in larger numbers toward virtualizing their hardware needs, particularly for servers and storage. SMBs will continue to drive the shift, as virtualization helps them achieve their IT goals -- from budget to mobility to security, and everything in between.

SEE ALSO:

CloudShare Adds Services For SMBs

Cisco, VMware Team On Simplified Desktop Virtualization

Pano Logic Introduces Desktop Virtualization Device

15 Green Tech Innovations

IBM Launches Virtualization Tools For Small Business


Figuring out the different segments of the SMB market can be a lot like figuring out drink sizes at a coffeehouse, only with a lot more at stake. The distinction between small and midsize businesses alone, for example, will become increasingly harder to detect in 2011. That might produce some interesting inconsistencies in the IT marketplace -- one vendor's small might be another's enterprise -- but that may not be a bad thing for true SMBs, as access to technology and related services continues to grow in their favor as a result.

SEE ALSO:

SMBs Do Software Different

Google, SBA Reach Out to Small Businesses

Small Businesses Get Busy With The FCC Broadband Plan

Top 10 SMB Stories Of 2010

How HP Plans To Rule The SMB World


Social media moved from sidelines to midfield in 2010, but SMBs were still just dipping their toes in the water. They'll dive in head-first in 2011, achieving greater comfort levels with the various platforms and beginning to truly unlock the cost efficiencies and marketing upside that drew them to social sites in the first place.

SEE ALSO:

Social Media Use By SMBs Doubles In 2010

Email, Social Media Level Playing Field For SMBs

The Social Needs Of Smaller Businesses

Top 20 Apps For Managing Social Media

Facebook Becoming Ultimate CRM System

To Change CRM, Embrace The Social Cloud

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