Half-a-billion internet-connected devices and counting

Half-a-billion internet-connected devices and counting

Summary: The average US household now has 5.7 internet-connected devices, and more and more of these are smartphones and tablets. Will there be enough internet to go-around?

TOPICS: Networking, 4G, Broadband

In my home-office, I have 36 internet-connected devices. That's 12 PCs, 8 laptops, 5 tablets, 5 internet TV devices, 4 servers, an iPod touch and a printer. That's a lot, but the rest of the US is catching up with me.


According to market-research company The NPD Group, the average US internet household now has 5.7 internet-connected devices. That's up from 5.3 devices only three months ago. By their count, there are now more than half-a-billion internet-connected devices in the US alone.

While the good old PC is still the most commonly connected device, the real growth is coming from tablets and smartphones. In the last quarter alone, NPD saw nearly 18 million more tablets and 9 million more smartphones appear. Specifically, "Apple and Samsung remained the most prevalent smartphone brands consumers own, and Apple continues to dominate the tablet market".

In a statement, John Buffone, NPD Connected Intelligence' director said, "Even with this extraordinary growth in the smartphone and tablet market, PCs are still the most prevalent connected device in US internet households, and this is a fact that won't be changing any time soon. However, when you look at the combined number of smartphones and tablets consumers own, for the first time ever, it exceeded the installed base of computers." Specifically, NPD found that smartphone penetration rose from 52 percent to 57 percent of cell phone users, while tablet penetration increased significantly from 35 to 53 percent of internet households.

So what are we using all these devices for? In an earlier blog posting, Buffone noted that, "We can now watch HBOGO on three TVs in our home. Last night, we saw they started promoting its availability on AirPlay. As an early adopter, my first thought was, 'I want an Apple TV, too'. But there is no need, as all three TVs we own provide HBOGO, and each through a different type of device. Apple TV does, however, offer screen mirroring, which none of the other connected devices in our home provide, and that is bound to be useful — right? At least, this is often the thinking and behaviour of early adopters, which is quite different than that of the general consumer. It's these 'events', such as the availability of a prominent service like HBOGO, that often drive consumers to new technology. As devices such as Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, and others offer increased utility and easier ways to access the content you want to watch. This results in more mass-market consumers getting engaged."

In short, NPD is recognizing what a lot of us — including Netflix — already knew: People are increasingly turning to internet-based video and audio for their entertainment needs. Indeed, by late 2010, Netflix had already become the single largest internet service, leaving web use and peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing eating its dust. In fact, by late 2012, Netflix alone was taking up a third of all download traffic in North America during the evening hours.

That's great, but there's a problem with this. As Netflix and other on-demand internet video services become more popular, our internet bandwidth will struggle to keep up with the demand. That's especially true if you rely on 4G for your internet connection. As more and more devices ask for more and more video, our internet bandwidth is going to start to become overwhelmed. In 2010, the major US internet registry VeriSign said that the internet's bandwidth needed to increase by a factor of one thousand. They may have underestimated it.

At the same time, behind the scenes where users never go, we're continuing to run out of old-style IPv4 internet addresses. ISPs and users are not moving as quickly as they should to IPv6. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) is still on track to run out of conventional IPv4 addresses on March 22, 2014. With so many more smartphones and tablets arriving on the internet, I suspect we're going to be running out sooner than that.

In other words, it's dandy that we're all getting so connected, but we're quickly getting to a point where our internet infrastructure may not be able to keep up with all our devices.

Related stories

Topics: Networking, 4G, Broadband

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Kudos to Microsoft

    Microsoft didn't invent the Internet client but MS single handedly popularized it. If you were to interview anyone alive today, 90% would tell you that they first accessed the Internet using a Microsoft Windows powered PC.

    Kudos to Microsoft.
    • Does that statistic have a source?

      "MS single handedly popularized it."

      Rubbish. The Internet was snowballing long before MS noticed its existence. In fact, didn't MS almost miss the Internet entirely, find itself becoming side-lined and end up integrating IE into Windows in order to kill its rival Netscape and take center-stage instead? This forming the basis of the anti-trust suit against MS, in which MS was found guilty?

      Perhaps you were too young to remember all that happening? But I well remember connecting to the Internet via VAXes, Alphas and Macs *long* before Windows 95 was released.

      "If you were to interview anyone alive today..."

      That's a weasel-like statement, since it includes a lot of people who have been born into a World where the Internet and the Web are so popular that access is starting to be perceived as a Human Right.
      • I said they didn't invent it

        But they popularized it. That is undeniable.

        We constantly hear "yeah, well, apple didn't invent the GUI / mouse / mp3 player / smartphone / tablet but they popularized it."

        Same goes.

        Kudos Microsoft for singlehandedly popularizing the Internet. Kudos.
        • Give it up toddbottom3

          It happened DESPITE Microsoft. MS was sitting in the middle of the road when the internet ran right over it. They do not get credit for that.
          • And Windows basically is mostly...

            ...just stand-alone computer OS. It was never really made for internet just like those ix OS's (UNIX, OSX, LINUX, BSD, SOLARIS ...). It's a gatecrasher of network.
        • They did not popularize it.

          "But they popularized it. That is undeniable."

          I know you didn't claim that MS invented the Internet, but I categorically deny that MS popularized it either.

          As I already said, the Internet's popularity was snowballing before MS even noticed its existence, and so what MS actually did was hitch its wagon to the Internet express train. And if it hadn't then MS would have been left behind in the dust long ago.

          But we would still have the Internet and Web.
          • RE: Deniable

            The press popularized it with help from Al Gore who was the Vice President then prophesying about the "information superhighway". Breathless story after breathless story basically all saying the same thing, that the Internet was the most radical change and positive radical change in the history of human existence. This was at its highest in 1994 and 1995 a maybe into 1996.
          • That is

            a more honest response.
          • I do agree

            Actually the invention of internet was a kind of shock to mister Gates. Something had to do and quickly. And he did - a terrible poor and insecure OS called Windows.
        • You got that wrong, as usual.

          The internet was already big in 1990.
          It was bigger when usenet news was big.
          It became HUGE when Mosaic came out.

          MS? nowhere.
          • There was a big uptick

            In 1996 when people became aware of the World Wide Web via HTTP, and Netscape 2.0 was released.

            Microsoft thought Netscape was a huge threat, hence the whole integration of IE into the OS, to make it used by the standard file explorer as well. Does anyone remember that? And once MS won, how we had a dreadful interface, with the Internet corrupted with Active X controls for about 5 years before the Mozilla project could finally create a stable version of Firefox.

            It was more, like, we can't kill it, maybe we can subvert it.
    • I think not.

      That is like saying Packard Bell (my first PC) played a key role in popularaizing the internet. Microsoft adapted to the internet, after much inertia. You can give them kudos for adaptation, but the internet would have become popular even if iOS or OS/2 had been the most popular OS out there.
      • Claim and counter claim

        This is an argument that is completely pointless. No single company "Popularized" the internet. I'd say that Internet Explorer, being automatically loaded on every Windows PC probably influenced it, but popularization came from many sources.

        Claiming any one group or company as the key popularization mechanizm is absolutely inane.
        • Naa, they'd simply have used Netscape Navigator instead.

          "I'd say that Internet Explorer, being automatically loaded on every Windows PC probably influenced it, but popularization came from many sources."

          Got to disagree there. The illegal integration of IE with Windows was merely how MS thrust itself into the Internet limelight. Without IE, people would have continued to use Netscape instead. And the Internet's growth would have continued regardless.
          • Disagree if you wish

            but I find it interesting that you'd say that those illegal practices did not influence internet adoption and practices.

            If the pre-loading of IE had no influence, then it wasn't a monopolistic action.

            Better get your logic straight on that one. Somehow, the argument is self-defeating for your side.
          • MS illegally popularized IE at Netscape's expense.

            Illegally popularizing your own Web client at the expense of other Web clients has nothing to do with "single-handledly popularizing Internet clients".

            The point is that the Internet was already popular without MS. People wanted to connect regardless, but MS was determined that people should connect with IE.
          • Sigh -

            as usual you attibute intelligence to MS where none existed. MS in their typical control centric attitude of the time built IE to keep the MS brand in control of the desktop. I doubt they considered it a "Major Threat" as MS along with most of the rest of the world had no idea how big the World Wide Web would become.

            I'm always amazed how people attribute such intelligence to MS where none really existed. If MS management were that intelligent, they'd control the smartphone and tablet market today.

            No, MS may have been ruthless, but they weren't all that intelligent.

            As for the internet being popular before IE and Microsoft's backing, that's debatable. Perhaps among the techie crowd, they'd heard of the internet, but few had actively used it. I started in Gopher and it was a royal pain. The Mosaic browser and WWW styled websites didn't start getting popular until the mid-90's or later. So claiming it was big before IE really doesn't fit real history.

            Considering MS released IE 1.0 in 1995, your claims are baseless.
          • Go tell it to the Judge.

            Considering that MS was convicted of abusing its monopoly position to give IE market share at Netscape's expense, I don't really see your problem. Are you trying to claim that people *weren't* accessing the Internet with Mosaic and Netscape before IE was released?

            You're also forgetting NNTP news groups, FTP etc.

            Wikipedia marks the "turning point for the World Wide Web" as the release of the Mosaic browser in 1993, predating your own 1995 date for MS releasing IE. So that's two years of increasing popularity before MS's contribution.

            "Perhaps among the techie crowd, they'd heard of the internet, but few had actively used it."

            I'm astonished that you feel qualified to talk for the entire "techie crowd" here.
          • Actually, you should tell the judge

            All I did was comment that your logic absolved MS. obviously the judge disagreed, so MS did influence the Internet by illegally loading IE on their boxes

            You really should tell the judge that MS had NO INFLUENCE as you stated earlier, maybe he'll go back 15 years and change his decision to match your logic.
          • You need to reread what I wrote.

            "You really should tell the judge that MS had NO INFLUENCE as you stated earlier..."

            You have misunderstood. I am talking about popularity of *the Internet*, whereas the Judge found MS guilty of illegally influencing the popularity of IE.

            Those are two completely different things.