Are small businesses the next target for smartphone companies?

According to the latest study by Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, approximately 31% of U.S small businesses (or SBs, defined as companies with less than 99 employees) are now using smartphones, with an additional 11% who do not use them saying plan to purchase one — equating to approximately 400,000 U.S. small businesses using smartphones.

What do these growth numbers mean? Money, and lots of it. AMI-Partners forecasts that U.S. SBs will spend a total of US$375 million on these devices alone (without services expense) in 5 years. This is a rate 6 times greater than the estimated spending of medium businesses (MBs, or companies with 100 to 999 employees).

Right now, RIM and Palm are 1 and 2 respectively in the smartphone market, but AMI-Partners says that much of future adoption will be driven by partnerships between manufacturers and carriers. They’re predicting that the upcoming BlackBerry Bold will allow AT&T to steal 18% of Blackberry SB owners under T-Mobile, and the 26% of Blackberry SB owners under Verizon.

What’s not mentioned, however, is the impact of the iPhone 3G on BlackBerry SB subscribers, considering its lower price point and the fact that most small business don’t require the stringent security RIM provides. Thoughts?

Oh, and if the summer heat is starting to get to you, how about a fresh glass of BlackBerry Limeade?

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