Mobile devices have evolved significantly in the past 10 years or so, with Apple's first iPhone acting as a turning point for both manufacturers and businesses with respect to the preferred gadgets used for collaboration and communication. Today, several major trends have reached more mature levels, including the dramatic drop in personal computer purchases and shipments and the rise of tablets, smartphones and wearables in place of the traditional devices.
Now, the Internet of Things is exploding into the foreground of virtually every industry's technology frameworks, driven by consumer demand for more agile and advanced options for mobile device-related activities. Forbes contributor Bernard Marr reported last fall that virtually all signs are pointing toward accelerated growth of the IoT in terms of business utilization, consumer adoption and more, and the sky will be the limit for operational transformations as these connected devices progress and spread.
The author cited one statistic from Cisco that called for the IoT market to grow rapidly in terms of revenue, with the private sector poised to see $14.4 trillion in gains through 2025 and the public sector set to see $4.6 trillion in the same time frame. Simply put, all businesses need to begin planning out strategies to embrace the IoT, or run the risk of becoming irrelevant among their customers and not quite as desirable in the eyes of current and prospective employees.
If you would like an introductory summary of the IoT's basic themes and functions in business, check out this quick video from IBM's Think Academy on the trend's fundamental characteristics:
Small-business owners should be especially diligent in their research about the IoT and what the trend will mean to their operational processes in the coming years, as the devices involved will almost surely have a profound impact on their companies before long. With the right knowledge and intelligent strategies to maximize the positive impacts of the trend, the average entrepreneur can ensure that the company is prepared to compete in the markets of the future.
Tablets falling off
Personal computers have been going through a proverbial extinction, and tablets have been the No. 1 competitor replacing these purchases in the past few years. However, International Data Corporation recently reported that tablet shipments fell significantly in the fourth quarter of 2015, marking the end of what was a very different year in terms of purchases and use of these items. But a newer type appeared to be shining through going into 2016.
According to the analysts, tablet shipments dropped by 13.7 percent to 65.9 million between the fourth quarters of 2015 and 2014, while the year-over-year decrease was marked at 10.1 percent. Interestingly, one segment of the market looked exceptionally strong throughout the year, and this was detachable tablets, which saw their largest showing to date at 8.1 million devices shipped in 2015.
"One of the biggest reasons why detachables are growing so fast is because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements," IDC Tablets Research Director Jean Philippe Bouchard explained. "We believe Apple sold just over two million iPad Pros while Microsoft sold around 1.6 million Surface devices, a majority of which were Surface Pro and not the more affordable Surface 3. With these results, it's clear that price is not the most important feature considered when acquiring a detachable - performance is."
The researchers also pointed out that regular tablets, also referred to as "slates," are likely to drop even further in the coming months, with almost every manufacturer feeling the sting of this trend except for Amazon. IDC argued that Amazon's decision to essentially minimize the cost of one of its tablets has propelled it to the top of the marketplace, as it enjoyed 175.7 percent growth in 2015 with respect to shipments thanks to a $50 option for the Kindle.
As a note, Apple's iPad device line still held the largest share of unit shipments between 2014 and 2015. In a word, companies thinking about investing in more tablets for their employees might want to rethink their purchasing decisions and instead look for detachable options, as these are far more favorable among consumers and the workforce at present.
"Wearable devices have been the cornerstone of the IoT."
The cornerstone of the IoT to this point has been the wearable device, which did not meet expectations in terms of adoption when first hitting the market but is now looking strong. Gartner recently predicted global wearable device sales will expand by 18.4 percent in 2016, which would translate to 276.4 million units shipped compared to the 232 million recorded in 2015.
All in all, wearable-related revenue will hit $28.7 billion this year. Perhaps not that surprisingly, Bluetooth headsets will remain in the lead with respect to units shipped, with the analysts expecting 128.5 million to be distributed this year. Smartwatches are forecast to see the strongest growth between 2015 and 2017, rising from 30.32 million last year to 50.4 million this year, then 66.71 million in 2017.
"From 2015 through 2017, smartwatch adoption will have 48 percent growth largely due to Apple popularizing wearables as a lifestyle trend. Smartwatches have the greatest revenue potential among all wearables through 2019, reaching $17.5 billion," said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner. "Though the sales of smartwatches are the one of the strongest types of wearables, their adoption will remain much below sales of smartphones. For example, in 2016 more than 374 million smartphones will sell in mature market countries and in large urban areas of emerging market countries, for example, in Hong Kong and Singapore."
Small-business owners will need to ensure that their IT departments, unified communications frameworks, policies and more are prepared for the introduction of these more advanced devices, as they will surely enter the workplace soon. By tackling these matters now, firms will be able to capitalize on the functionality and advantages of wearable devices rather than being disrupted by them.