Workers Want to Choose Their Mobile Devices, Survey Finds

Employees enjoy using work-related mobile apps, especially on smartphones and tablets that they choose themselves, according to a new survey from mobile software maker Sybase.

The online survey of 500 workers at U.S. and U.K. companies found that half would rather choose the mobile device that they use at work than have the company decide. Also, 56% said work-related apps for mobile devices make them more productive. The survey, conducted in June, involved employees at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues.

The survey also found support for having access to a work-related application storefront, similar to the App Store Volume Purchasing Program for Business that Apple launched July 20. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they would use an employer-provided online market for downloading company-approved mobile apps.

Apple's business-to-business storefront helps solve a concern that IT managers have raised since the App Store originated three years ago by allowing an administrator to pick the apps that employees can download instead of giving workers free rein in making downloads.

On its Web site, Apple described the B-to-B site as giving an IT manager the ability to use a corporate credit card to buy apps in volume (at the same price consumers pay), including custom apps built by third-party developers. Once purchased, IT managers get redemption codes for each app and then can control who gets the apps by providing the codes to users via email or an internal Web site. Apple's B-to-B site is open to any U.S. business.

Cisco announced a similar B-to-B application storefront approach for its Cius tablet called AppHQ , which is a combination of an app store as well as a tablet management and app development system.

Sybase, along with its parent company, SAP , already offers a number of mobile apps for the iPhone and the iPad and stands to benefit from business app sales through Apple's B-to-B store. Several of the Sybase and SAP apps are free. However, SAP's Bizbox Direct, which allows routing of workflow messages without the need for email, costs $149.99 per app.

A Sybase Mobile database client app for iPad costs $7.99.

Sybase has a stake in the survey's findings, since it sells workplace mobile apps and recognizes the need for IT shops to protect corporate data and security. The survey was conducted by an independent research firm, Kelton Research, on behalf of Sybase.

The survey also found that only 19% of employees felt their bosses make it as easy to do their jobs from a mobile device as they do from a workplace desktop. Also, 44% said they don't have access to enough mobile apps for their jobs.

Only 29% felt that their IT shops were generally good at managing mobile devices.

Meanwhile, more than 30% of those surveyed admitted that they are putting company data at risk by sending work-related emails or documents to their personal email accounts.

The fact that so many workers said they prefer using their own mobile device for workplace chores has been supported in other surveys in recent years. But Sybase also found that using one's own device over the one required by IT was so important to workers that they would give up free coffee (58%), free food (39%) and office supplies (30%) to keep their own device.

Some workers in the survey even were willing to give up paid parking (26%), or a vacation day (20%) to be able to hold onto their preferred mobile device for work.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about mobile apps and services in Computerworld's Mobile Apps and Services Topic Center.

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