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When will the mobile Internet surpass the desktop one? Try 2014

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | April 12, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Sometimes the messenger — and the recipient — are more important than the message. So it was with Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker’s speech on Monday at the Google campus.

Talking to a group of enterprise CIOs, Meeker trotted out slides with impressive statistics underpinning one basic theme: the mobile Internet bandwagon is finally revving up, so get on board.

According to a comprehensive report by Matthew Ingram of the tech blog GigaOM, there are about 1.4 billion users of the desktop Internet worldwide today, versus 800 million mobile Internet users, according to Meeker’s research.

(Check out GigaOM for the entire 87-slide PowerPoint presentation or this page at Morgan Stanley’s Web site for more mobile Internet research)

By early 2014, the number of mobile and desktop Internet users will both be about 1.6 billion, says Meeker. (one quibble: it wasn’t clear from Ingram’s article how Meeker defined mobile versus desktop users. If you connect via Wi-Fi or 3G using a laptop, are you a desktop or a mobile user? What about a netbook?)

For this growth, Meeker credits the iPhone, which she said is being adopted by consumers 11 times faster than AOL was in the 1990s. And she sees an “inflection point” in a recently-achieved milestone: 20% of the world’s cellphone users now have 3G access.

“The desktop Internet ramp was just a warm-up act for what we’re seeing happen on the mobile Internet,” said the longtime Internet analyst — a Silicon Valley lifetime ago, Meeker helped take Netscape public. VentureBeat also reported Meeker calling the pace of mobile innovation “unprecedented, I think, in world history.”

Meeker’s pronouncements were notable mostly for the hyperbolic language. Some commentators found them insultingly obvious, and responded in kind.

“New York City. Dateline: 2012. Internet analyst Mary Meeker’s presentation on: Facebook. ‘It’s gonna be huge!’” wrote one poster at GigaOM.

But that’s the point. Meeker is a big-name Wall Streeter thousands of miles removed from Silicon Valley. She is less connected to new technology than she is to old money. And what money wants is to make more money, and that happens only when a technology has crossed the chasm into the mainstream.

Similarly, there are few more cautious or skeptical of new technology than an enterprise CIO — especially a CIO who was burnt last decade when pundits predicted that 2.5G technologies like WAP would take the mobile Web mainstream.

While WAP and other technologies have infiltrated corporations and consumers, they were still a false dawn for a new era. Meeker’s declaration that the mobile Web is taking off isn’t news to anyone immersed in this industry, but it’s a great indicator that the rest of the world is finally catching up to the future.

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