There is an oft quoted statistic that mobile web usage will overtake desktop based browsing in the later half of 2013. This stat comes from Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley, who has been an analyst since the time of Netscape Communications and was dubbed “Queen of the Net” by Barron’s magazine in 1998. This comes from her “State of the Internet” report that was delivered at the Events@Google series in April 2010. She is supposed to be this internet guru, but I can’t help but notice the absence of “Tablets” in her entire presentation. She really seems to overlook this entire category, which is kind of silly because the iPad was released later that same April of 2010. The iPad sold 3 million devices in 80 days and so I find it pretty hard to believe that her calculations did not take this into account.
It’s strange to see no mention of this new category of devices, especially considering the fact that next slide depicts how increases in technology are speeding up, as in, mobile devices are being adopted at a much faster rate than desktop internet.
The fact is that tablets, iPads specifically, have been adopted at a much faster rate than cell phones and DVD players (which were previously the most quickly adopted non-phone electronic product ever).
iPad sold three million units in the first 80 days after its April release and its current sales rate is about 4.5 million units per quarter, according to Bernstein Research. This sales rate is blowing past the one million units the iPhone sold in its first quarter and the 350,000 units sold in the first year by the DVD player, the most quickly adopted non-phone electronic product.
To be fare to Mary, when she made her prediction, the Kindle Fire was probably just an idea in Jeff Bezos head, but the tablet 7″ tablet is predicted to sell almost 4 million units by the end of the year. It is expected that tablet sales will reach 64.7 million units in the 4th quarter of 2011 alone. We are only 7 quarters since the iPad (arguably the first tablet) was released and based on the above graph it looks like tablets are definitely crushing the adoption record set by the iPhone and iPod Touch.
To add more evidence that mobile adoption is happening more quickly than predicted, the graph below comes from a more recent Guardian article on tablets shows not only that tablets will reach the 80 million units mark this year, but that tablets are going to already be at 60% of PC levels by 2015.
I’ve been researching this topic more in depth as I’ve been writing it and after writing all of the above, I just came across a new Morgan Stanley report from February 2011, less than a year after Mary Meeker’s famous presentation. Look at the chart I came across on page 4:
This graphic presents three scenarios for tablet growth, Bull, Base, and Bear, and all three outstrip smartphone growth. The subsequent report basically proves everything I was saying above about the mobile web expanding much faster than predicted. This also proves that people want to access the web while they are on the go and that the only thing stopping it has been a lack of of devices. So as the devices come down in price and increase in features, they will become more and more widespread and the growth of mobile will likely accelerate faster than even this Bull Case suggests.
This means that the mobile web is going to eclipse desktop usage much more quickly than Mary Meeker or anyone predicted. This is good for NatMobi, as we create mobile optimized websites that detect a user’s device and automatically display the touch optimized version.
If I learned anything from this article, it’s that mobile is going to grow even larger than it is now and that no one should make predictions, but I will make a prediction anyway: that mobile web usage overtakes desktop usage before Q4 of 2012 is over