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April 30, 2006


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Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Bryan and Infocult blog readers

Good posting, and thank you very much for including the link to my related blog on this topic.

Your readers may feel that a 10 year scenario for "the web" (ie the fixed internet as we know it today) becoming obsolete. The reality is much more intense than that. Let me put it into context

The internet became a mass market offering with the famous Time Magazine cover in 1994. In 12 years it has achieved 1 billion users - but very significantly 250 million of those are accessing the web only via mobile phone (the three biggest countries out of that 250 million are China, Japan and Korea). So the fixed internet achieved 750 million users in 12 years.

The biggest application on the internet is e-mail. Radicati measured that in 2005 there were 688 million individual e-mail users, and they maintained 1.2 billion e-mail mailboxes.

Meanwhile, in 1999 the web appeared onto the mobile phones (first in Japan). In a little over 6 years worldwide already 588 million people used their mobile phones to access the web (Ipsos research just released latest numbers last week). Now, OBVIOUSLY most of these users do both. They have a PC and an advanced mobile phone. They use the PC for the heavy surfing and their mobile phone for more the quick WAP snacking of urgent news updates, etc.

Combining the three items of data, out of the 1 billion internet users, 250 million access the web ONLY via mobile phone. another 338 million (588 minus 250) use both a PC and a mobile phone currently. And ONLY 412 million (1 billion minus 588) use a PC exclusively.

The "contest" is not 25% vs 75%. It is actually only 25% vs 41%. The mobile phone is VERY close already.

Oh, before I forget. The most used data application on the planet? 63% of all mobile phone users around the world use SMS text messaging - that works out to 1.3 billion users. TWICE as many people are active users of SMS text messaging, as use e-mail. In some ways the transition has already happened. Young people all around the world say that e-mail is only for communicating with old people.

But now for the really relevant matters.

A PC costs about 1000 dollars (laptops more, desktops less). PCs are replaced about every 3.5 years. In all markets, customers pay full price for PCs. And a top-end smartphone of today, will match the performance of a mid-range laptop from only five years ago.

A mobile phone costs about 250 dollars, but in almost all countries in the world, they are subsidied to cost less than 50 dollars. Mobile phones are replaced every 21 months - and among heavy users who have two phones (European mobile phone penetration hit 100% per capita earlier this year, meaning that about 20% of Europeans already have two mobile phone subscriptions) that means an effective replacement rate of 11.5 months.

All 2.5G and 3G phones today can do e-mail, web browsing, mobile commerce, Google/search, IM instant messaging and of course SMS.

How many generations will the current PC users bother to pay full price to replace the device, when they can do all they really want on their handheld smartphone?

It will not take 10 years for the transition to happen, when the PC based internet will be a niche only. The majority access method will become the mobile phone well before the end of THIS DECADE. You don't have 10 years to adjust to this change. It is happening all the time already now.

Much more at my blogsite and in my books.

Tomi T Ahonen :-)
4-time bestselling author and consultant on next generation mobile and IT
founding member Forum Oxford, Carnival of the Mobilists, Wireless Watch and Engagement Alliance
website www.tomiahonen.com
blogsite www.communities-dominate.blogs.com

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