Enterprises in the Middle East are increasingly aware of the strategic value of mobility to enable or enhance business processes, particularly as they focus less on concerns over compatibility and uniformity. Oman Air’s recent deployment of SITA’s resource management solution for its 2,500 employees at Muscat International Airport is a clear example. The solution will provide a platform for planning, rostering, management, and real-time scheduling of work tasks and enable communication of tasks via mobile devices and monitoring of operational status and billing information in real time.

But as the perceived importance of supporting mobility increases over the next two years, we expect more organizations in the region to re-evaluate their mobile technology choices. After 10 years of using BlackBerry, Halliburton, a major energy provider headquartered in Dubai, decided to switch 4,500 of its employees to the iPhone as its preferred platform for expanding mobile technology usage by giving employees secure access to internal applications from outside the corporate network. In addition to security, compatibility, and access, organizations will increasingly evaluate mobile OS platform support for developing and localizing their own applications, e.g., developing applications in Arabic.

Below I’ve highlighted several of the drivers of further mobility adoption for enterprises in the Middle East:

  • Government initiatives and support. Governments in this region are aiming to be as technologically advanced as most countries in Europe and North America and achieve leadership status among emerging markets. The UAE government, for instance, started with enabling simple functions, like being able to pay for the parking meter with your mobile phone; it has now rolled out more than 30 mobile applications.
  • Increase in mobile/smartphone penetration. According to Informa Telecoms & Media, the number of mobile subscriptions in the Middle East will surpass 250 million in 2012. The average mobile penetration rate for the region will also surpass 100%, rising from 97.7% at the end of 2011 to 107.1% at the end of 2012. This will exceed the mobile penetration rate in North America (US/Canada) for the first time. Smartphone penetration in major markets like Saudi Arabia and the UAE will double over the next five years.
  • A small but growing tablet market. Although the tablet market is still nascent in the Middle East, many global vendors see great potential and continue launching their products in the region. Vendors such as Lenovo and Motorola believe 2012 is the year of growth for tablets and predict that the majority of the growth will be driven by the corporate world.

Right now, mobility investments across the Middle East are driven mainly by large enterprises. But over the next three years, we expect small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) to catch up. This is mainly due to the high costs associated with data service packages being offered in the region, which tend to be much higher than in most parts of the world. But SMBs will see these prices start to drop as a result of governments once again trying to achieve international standards and be in line with other mature markets.