When smartphones first hit U.S. shelves they were limited to basic business applications such as e-mail and calendaring. These days the market is rich with on-the-go apps that could make just about any job easier.
Many of these applications empower mobile users in ways that a desktop application cannot. Take Salesforce Mobile on-demand customer relationship management software, for example. Being able to visit prospects, input their data, and access sales tools in the field is a huge advantage. You can do the same with a laptop you say? With mobile applications, road warriors can get directions with their phone’s GPS, modify their PowerPoint presentation while in a taxi, and report back to the office via e-mail, all without ever fumbling to open a laptop bag.
Both BlackBerry and Windows Mobile offer software for large and small businesses in a number of industries. Through its BlackBerry Alliance Members, Research in Motion goes beyond push e-mail (where new e-mail is instantly and actively transferred) to offer wireless customer resource management for salespeople, business intelligence tools, remote IT systems management, and time and billing applications for professional services. Windows Mobile serves up mobile versions of Microsoft’s core desktop business applications such as Office, Outlook, and MSN Messenger. Windows Mobile also offers a broad range of applications geared toward larger enterprises such as collaboration tools, sales force solutions, field service solutions, and business value calculators.
For small businesses, Windows Mobile offers industry-specific applications in the real estate, health care, legal, and professional service fields.
Of course, the most popular and advanced Internet-enabled phone to hit the market recently is Apple’s iPhone. But if you’re an iPhone user you won’t find a great deal of native business applications because the iPhone first launched as a consumer device with only a few business basics such as contact management, calendaring, and Web browsing capabilities. However, Apple has recently seeded a beta of iPhone 2.0 software that offers more business functions, such as syncing with Microsoft Exchange Server and having virtual private network capabilities. Apple has also invited developers to create more innovative native iPhone applications, so stay tuned.
Moving beyond device software, there are a plethora of Web-based applications to choose from. With the iPhone, for example, you can access QuickBooks Online or use TimeTracker for keeping track of the time spent on a project or do online quotes and pricing.
Developers have been creating applications for the BlackBerry much longer and deliver many more options. Users can tackle task and money management, for example, or use eOffice productivity tools. BlackBerry even launched a site called Built for BlackBerry that lists new third-party applications.
On the Windows Mobile platform there are hundreds of options, including an expense tracker, a task manager, and business intelligence applications. With so many choices, users may need to poke around for the right solution; it helps if you know what you’re looking for.
The good news is no matter which mobile platform you choose, more options are becoming available to business users every day. The applications are more robust and reliable than they were just a few years ago, and in many cases they allow you to do what cannot be done from a desktop: complete, real work on the move, from the palm of your hand.