Monday, December 15, 2008

Ya Think 2009 Will Be the 'Year of the Mobile'? Try 2020.

A new report, the "Future of the Internet III", produced by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, states that by 2020, cell phones will be the primary way that people connect to the internet.

According to the report, by the end of 2008, there will be approximately 4 billion cell phones in use worldwide. Up to 15% of those phones will be Internet-enabled (blackberries, iPhones.)

Cell phones will take over from laptops because they will become more affordable, mobile, and will be aided by a set of universal standards that will allow cell users to maintain consistent service across different parts of the globe.

"By 2020, we'll have standard network connections around the world. ... Billions of people will have joined the Internet who don't speak English. They won't think of these things as 'phones' either--these devices will be simply lenses on the online world," said Susan Crawford. Ms. Crawford is the founder of OneWebDay, and an Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board member.

"By 2020 I don't think it will be so easy to distinguish between a mobile phone and a laptop," said Steve Jones, co-founder of the Association of Internet Researchers and associate dean at the University of Illinois-Chicago. "These will blend into a general 'mobile computing' category of device (for which we probably don't yet have a name)."

However, some experts are skeptical, due to doubts about open networks, cell phone bandwidth, and screen size. According to Hal Varian, chief economist at Google: "The big problem with the cell phone is the UI (user interface), particularly on the data side. We are waiting for a breakthrough."

About 1.6 billion people currently use the internet. Social media researcher Danah Boyd, of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Worldwide Internet & Society, notes that "if the carriers continue to own the market, network access through mass adoption of the mobile will be far slower than if governments would begin blanketing their land with WiFi (or network access on other spectrum channels) as a public-good infrastructure project."

The Pew report also indicates that Internet voice-recognition technology and touchscreens will be more prevalent by 2020. According to the report, the divide between personal and work time, and physical and virtual reality, will be even further erased.

Can anyone say "e-waste?"

source: Pew: Most Will Access Internet Via Mobile By 2020, MediaPost, by Mark Walsh, 12/15/08

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