The primary trend is the massive broad-based adoption of mobile phones worldwide. The mobile user base is much larger and growing faster than the PC user base. Globally, the installed base of mobile phones (roughly 2.7 billion in 2006) is about three times that of personal computers (roughly 850 million in 2006). The growth rate is higher too nearly a billion mobile phones were sold in 2006, compared to about 250 million PCs in the same period.
In India, the trend is skewed even more in favour of mobiles. With nearly 200 million mobile users plus six million new users per month, the mobile user base far outpaces the PC user base, estimated to be roughly 20 million; with an additional five million new users per year. This will drive a greater demand for internet content on the mobile device.
Another trend favouring increased use of the mobile internet is rapid improvements in device and network capabilities. Devices are getting more capable even as they get cheaper. Screens, storage, keyboards and user interfaces are all improving rapidly enabling richer experiences. The widespread adoption of camera phones (about 50% of the phones sold in 2006 included a camera) is leading to better colour screens and more storage. The network continues to improve as well, in coverage and speed, albeit a little slowly due to the significant capital investments required. 3G is being widely deployed, even as some parts of the world (Korea, Japan) rapidly move to wireless broadband networks.
Mobile internet use is on the rise. Research firm Ipsos, reported that 28% of mobile phone users access the internet on their mobile phones. Given the large mobile user base, this translates to more than half the total internet user population.
The very nature of internet content and services will evolve as mobiles become the primary surfing device. Richly formatted html pages, not suited for display on small phone screens, may be replaced or presented differently on mobiles. Newer web services will emerge that provide dense and to-the-point content, more suitable for the mobiles. Many phones already have web and WAP browsers (e.g. Opera) pre-loaded on the phone. Newer applications, such as Yahoo Go and Webaroo for Mobiles, are emerging as alternatives to the browser. These applications store content locally to deliver a fast, free and always-on access to the web.
More commerce will be conducted via mobile phones, such as buying cinema tickets, mobile payments, etc. Mobile advertising will emerge as an alternative revenue source that will subsidise many new services for users. Thus the change will happen incrementally, yet rapidly, even before the proverbial ink is dry on this page.
The writer is CTO and co-founder, Webaroo