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Growing Mobile Workforce Clamors For More IT Support

Corporate workers are rapidly moving from the desktop PC to mobile computers, so IT departments need to adapt with applications and support that meet the needs of workers outside of the office, a market research group said Monday.

About 80 percent of corporate employees today depend on the desktop, with 15 percent primarily using notebooks and 5 percent using a thin-client device, such as a dumb terminal, Meta Group Inc. said. Those numbers, however, are expected to change dramatically by the end of 2006, with 45 percent of workers using desktops, 40 percent using notebooks or tablet PCs and 15 percent using thin-client or other information appliances.

"Corporations are going to have to focus on supporting mobile workers more aggressively than they have in the past," Meta analyst Steve Kleynhans said. "We found that a lot of companies try to treat mobile workers as if they're desktop workers, and they really do need to build into their environment new models for support."

IT departments need to provide secure applications that can deliver services and corporate data to the mobile worker, as well as support that's available beyond the traditional 9-to-5 workday. In addition, corporate IT needs to get ready to support tablet PCs, which are unique in their ability to support pen-enabled applications that allow a user to write on the screen and store the notes in a document file.

"Tablets as a category are going to grow," Kleynhans said. "More and more users are going to find that style of interaction with a portable computer as a very natural one and very compelling."