More firms are unleashing their employees from desks, workstations and even heavy laptops. By Drake Lundell, Associate Editor November 9, 2010 Most companies will soon be meeting their information technology needs courtesy of a confluence of cloud computing, tablet computers and mobile applications.The rapid emergence of the “cloud” -- an Inter- or intranet system for storing and processing IT functions -- will enable firms to ditch expensive PCs and servers for lightweight, mobile tablet computers without sacrificing any computing power. “The capabilities and potential of cloud are too great to ignore,” said James Harris, managing director of cloud computing at Accenture, a management, consulting, tech services and outsourcing company based in Washington, D.C. In a statement, Harris went on to note that “the low development cost, short development cycle and quick return on investment are irresistible. Sponsored Content “The critical issue isn’t whether cloud computing will become a fundamental technology in the next decade, but how companies will be able to benefit from the promise it offers,” he said. Advertisement The concentration of dollars on mobile and cloud computing applications over the next five years will be fueled, in part, by the rapid proliferation of tablet computers, according to a study of 2,000 IT professionals in 87 countries conducted by IBM. Sales of tablets are likely to grow 300% worldwide next year, to 54 million units. By 2014, tablets will make up 32% of the world computer market. Moreover, within two years the price of tablet computers will drop by more than half to under $300. Tablets run lightweight operating systems such as Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, HP’s webOS, the open source MeeGo used by Nokia, and stripped-down versions of Microsoft’s Windows. Because of this, and their mobility, they will rely more than traditional notebook computers on getting their applications online from cloud computer services. By a 9-1 margin, those surveyed by IBM anticipate that cloud computing will overtake on-premise computing as the primary way organizations acquire IT over the next five years. Advertisement And more than 50% of respondents predict that spending on software development for mobile devices such as tablet computers and smartphones will surpass spending for all other computer platforms by 2015. This will largely be for applications that run on tablets like the Apple iPad and Research in Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook, as well as smartphones. More than 55% of the tablets are now cellular/WiFi-enabled but that number will grow to over 80% by 2014. Backing that up, market researcher Gartner Group predicts mobile application sales will grow from $6.2 billion this year to nearly $30 billion in 2013.