Mobile is eating the world

Mobile is eating the world

Summary: Mary Meeker's slide vividly depicts the relentless march of mobile OS into the heart of desktop QWERTY keyboard land

Mary Meeker



I downloaded the latest Mary Meeker slide deck earlier today, and the image above - a composite of information from Asymco, public filings, Morgan Stanley Research and Gartner - jumped out at me as I flipped through her fresh insights.

Wintel is the blue background color, and the image vividly depicts the changing operating system landscape. After the brief Commodore Amiga/AtariST/Apple renaissance in 1991, the market has been dominated by Microsoft until the new hockey stick of Apple and Android hit its stride in 2008...ironically just as the global banking credit and fraud crisis choked commercial activity.

It's a hell of an image to burn into your synapses: Mary's deck is titled 'internet trends' and of course the unseen in this image underpinnings of the new hockey stick are mobile and cloud infrastructure, with a return to a variation of the thin client/beefy servers that were dominant prior to the PC's triumphant ascent from the 80's to 1999, the height of the Microsoft Explorer browser dominated dot com boom.

Today the vast majority of employees are provisioned with PCs and Windows. Walk into a major hospital or other large complex enterprise and you're likely to see a lot of screensavers with the Windows XP logo drifting around on them while they are locked. The plasticy PC's and dorky look and feel of old versions of Windows is as ubiquitous as the locks on the doors and keycard systems...and they won't be going away any time soon.

While modern mobile device evolution matures people will watch closely but not take action until they see firm foundations, which is what Microsoft have provided for many past lifetimes in technology dog years.

The world today is focusing on the software that increasingly powers everything thanks to ubiquitous broadband and mobile connectivity, and the barriers to creating applications that leverage the connection to the billions strong digital population of the planet have never been lower.

We've gone from the Web 2.0 'beta' Google and down web applications ('fail early and often') of five years ago, where you enticed your prospects to help alpha and beta test your concepts, to the currently febrile and ephemeral 'apps' era.

Large, rigid business entities are going to take years to move to newer technologies, but the bigger question is how many large, rigid entities will be left by then? A hospital is a text book example of an enterprise anyone can understand: medical records, literal life and death, tight and volatile regulatory control, lots of moving parts and legal complexity.

The form factor of the enterprise application access physical device may well change over time, evolving from mouse and keyboard to slates for those constantly on their feet and with light input needs, but that's akin to the CSS layer of code - the display layer. These types of transactional business entities are not bound to Windows as the operating system/display layer as cloud becomes the dominant connectivity via browsers and apps.

If PC sales dry up that cuts off a big part of Microsoft's operating system revenue, as Zack Whitacker has already discussed here on ZDNet. The reality is that many businesses are composed of multiple smaller business entities, often with their own P&L, HR and IT. Take these plus small and medium sized firms and you really begin to see the shift to the post PC, mobile world where documents and email are less dominant as contractual and communication devices, and where mobile context is king.

Microsoft of course recognize this and are now wide awake and bombarding the planet with advertising for their new efforts. However "Windows: the smartphone reinvented around you" may not compute in a world used to Windows meaning cathode ray tubes, plastic QWERTY keyboards and mice….and Seinfeld and Gate's cosy comedic timing around the future of computers being 'moist and chewy like cakes so we can just eat them while we're working'.

The chart above tells the story, and the major societal seismic shifts in the way we relate, communicate and collaborate with each other individually, in defined groups and en masse is breaking molds faster than new ones can be created. I saw the (well worth seeing) film 'Chasing Ice' this weekend -  'the story of one man's mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of climate change - Meeker's slide reminds me of the temperature change claims and epic footage of elemental destruction of gigantic ice plains in that film. 



Topics: Mobile OS, Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft, Social Enterprise


Oliver Marks leads the Global Digital Enterprise Team at HP, having previously provided seasoned independent consulting guidance to companies on effective planning of business strategy, tactics, technology decisions, roll out and enduring use models that make best use of modern collaborative and social networking tools to achieve their business goals.

These are Oliver's views and not those of his employer HP.

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  • That is a very interesting chart

    It really puts into perspective the changing nature of OS use.
  • I remember

    standing in front of a group of South Texas cotton growers in 2002 with my Kyocera 7135 smartphone, telling them that one day soon they would be using a similar device in their cotton fields to access the on-line decision support system we at Texas Agrilife had created for them.

    (BTW - there no small cotton growers any more and all make several $100,000 decisions over the course of a growing season.)

    It did not take long before that was a reality.

    Even farmers get this and if you look into the tools available to Agriculture today you will find that they are not just pitchforks and shovels any more. Today's farm equipment is loaded with digital technology and GPS driven devices. The job that global Agriculture has to do today is enormous, feeding, clothing, and bio-fueling an ever increasing global human population, all with no additional crop land, as it is pretty much all claimed now.

    Back in 2002 most of the growers I knew did all of their digital work at their home or office on their PCs. Today they can take all that with them into the field. hand held connected devices make their work much more efficient then in those days where the PC was where they got to examine what was going to effect their bottom line.

    Right now south Texas is abuzz with robust oilfield activity, wind energy and agriculture, all putting connected devices and cloud deployed tools to good use. That old pocket note pad and pencil have been replaced by post-PC area tools.
    • An interesting example

      There is research being done into agriculture and industry in 3rd Wold countries (such as India and those of Africa) that mirrors what you are talking about. What is interesting is how big a role mobile technology plays in the lives of these people, especially in ensuring that they get the best price for the crops or product. Also of interest is how they have "jumped" desktop computing and gone straight to mobile technology.
      • Yes, right about how mobile has help the 3rd world

        Countries that could never string enough copper wires to connect people with technology are jumping right to mobile devices. I read a paper about how mobile phone to bank payment systems were helping people in Africa get paid for things they send to far-away markets. One example was a single mother of two who sells dried fish caught from a local lake in a market many miles away. She puts the dried fish on a bus, has a relative pick it up at the destination and take to the market for sale, at the end of the day the relative sends her an e-payment to her mobile phone and she is able to cash that in locally. Some thing that would have required her to travel with her children before just to get her fish to market. Now she has more time to catch and dry the fish and does not have to travel. It is safe to say this woman has never user a desktop PC in her life.

        BTW - Texas Agrilife is part of the Texas A&M University System. I no longer work for them but they are collaborating with several other universities and government agricultural agencies around the world. What I there did was to build and maintain one of the first (if not the first) on-line decision support systems for agriculture on the planet. A similar system and network of crop weather stations is being developed in Afghanistan by Texas Agrilife to help bring agriculture back to that war torn country. It was, at one time the bread-basket of that part of the world.
        • Thanks for these great insights

          Nothing like real world comments! Sub Saharan Africa is particularly interesting as a straight to LTE post copper culture....
        • If her business starts growing

          She'll most likely invest in a real computer.
          I've heard some stories in China also where many people who can't afford a computer pick up a cheap phone but anyone who can afford one will get a computer eventually.
          new gawker
          • So let them eat pi

            Just add a dirt cheap keyboard, monitor, and mouse to a Raspberry Pi. Tether to the phone for internet. This stuff needs to be made easier.
    • Will Texas farm and oil like Win8, its smartphone, and its Surface?

      Thank you for your time in reply, ntroling!
      • From my experience,

        just like the rest of us, the agriculture and oil patch kids are a diverse set. I am pretty sure reflect what most of us use. I can see where Surface might be useful in the field to some.

        The Ag project I worked on began back in Fall of 1999 and most of the farmers were using Windows PCs to connect to the crop weather station network. What the on-line decision support system (DSS) replaced was a set of Windows desktop apps that crunched the weather data that in those days had to be downloaded by each farmer using a slow modem connection. The automated system I built to collect the weather data and deliver it to the servers used for the DSS fixed that very big problem. Because the sensors on the weather stations were mostly from Campbell Scientific, and at the time their data logger software only came in one flavor, windows, I set it up on a Win PC in the lab. That PC eventually became the only Windows item in the lab except for a notebook for communicating with the data loggers in the field.

        The servers for the DSS were Linux from day one and still are today. I did most of my development on a Linux desktop PC and my Linux notebooks and the project leader (professor) worked on Mac PCs and notebooks. Because it was browser based accessing the apps and weather data could be done with any connected device.

        Before leaving, about three years ago I had plans to modernise the system and develop mobile apps, but was never allowed to move on it. I did format some of the crop apps to a mobile friendly web format, but I'm not sure they are still accessible today.

    • but if you think about it just a little longer

      you will notice that the home Pc's were not nesessarily replaced - mobile devices are used out in a field, but in the home office nothing really changed.
      • All charts are not perfect

        All charts compare either sales or web usage, but none take into account what people have. What's the percentage of people who have only a mobile device (smartphone/tablet), what percentage have just a PC (desktop/laptop), what percentage have a combination of both?

        I'm sure we'd see quite a different picture...
        • I agree...

          I've used smart phones for several years now (going on 10 years) and today I use a smart phone and tablets daily for various tasks; but the only place I use my computer less is at home. Where I used to sit in front of the TV and use my laptop, I mostly use a tablet today; but I still use the laptop at times too. However, that has nothing to do with the advent of mobile and more to do with the fact that at the moment, I simply try to work from home (after hours) as little as possible; whereas, in the past, I was doing that a lot, way too much. At work, I only use the tablet/phone in meetings or in support of a user who is asking a question about a tablet or phone issue. So, the mobile gadgets, while great, aren't even close to replacing my computer. I'm sure there are folks where this is different but I don't know any who have completely given up there computers for mobile devices. If anything, the mobile devices have simply created more usage in places/times where the computer wasn't used at all. For example, I use my laptop when I'm doing heavy work from home; that hasn't changed. What has changed is I'll sit on the couch and use a mobile device for browsing the internet for mostly non-important stuff that I probably wouldn't have pulled out the laptop for in the past.

          My wife is a stay-at-home-mom and I bought her a couple of different tablets over the last couple of years and an iPhone when they first came out... Today, she still seems to use her PC as much as ever, probably more even. The only change is now she also has access to her mail and other internet related services when she isn't in front of her computer.

          Another example would be my company's outside sales force. We leave it up to the individual sales rep to use whatever he/she is most comfortable working with in the field. Consequently, in the past, some used laptops and most didn't; almost all have a laptop or desktop at home that they use for work when they aren't in the field. Since the iPad kicked off the tablet race, most have tablets that they use in the field now. But, they still use their computers at home as much as ever. I would guess that a few probably don't use their laptops in the field though and that would be a change for certain. But overall, they're all still using PCs almost or as much as ever.

          I'm sure there are those who have completely or mostly replaced there PC usage with mobile, but that hasn't been my personal experience at all.
        • Who has a mobile device but not a computer?

          I haven't met anyone that doesn't have a computer but has a mobile device. Does anyone here know anyone like that? I don't think anyone is ready to give up their computer and go full mobile.
          new gawker
          • I know at least two

            Me, and my wife.

            We both do not have a stationary "PC" in our home. Both are using *only* laptops for at least a decade and both (now) use tablets and smartphones. This serves our needs perfectly, as we prefer to spend our time at home with non-computer activities -- but life is such today (and our occupation), that we sometimes have to do heavy computer processing -- at home. We both have plenty of servers at our work places, as well as desktops etc.

            The contents of my travel bag today is an MacBook Air, an iPad and an iPhone in my pocket. This provides me with high availability and the best tool for the task, because different situations require different form factor computer to handle. And all those three weight less and take less space than my previous Windows based workstation laptop. Not to compare the (combined) battery life I get.

            Similarly, we don't have an landline telephone at home. We moved to a new home 8 years ago and while we had one at the old home, didn't bother to move it too. What is the point of having a landline? If you are not home, it can ring and ring.. nobody will answer anyway. When you are home, your mobile phone is home too.

            If the world didn't move to mobile earlier, it was only because of inadequacy of the hardware and software (especially Windows).
          • take a different view

            and try to use Whatsapp on a computer.
            That's only the first of a new generation of functionality completely tuned for mobile devices and many more will follow. As soon as the generation that currently grows up, surrounded by smartphone and tablet, replace us as designers, developers and users of the old email systems and office applications, that development will explode.

            I'm utterly surprised that the majority of doubters in the mobile revolution still cling to their keyboard and local storage. I'm a writer and hence I spend a lot of time behind the keyboard and applications as Office and I hate every minute of it.
            I hate keyboards and I hate Word (or OpenOffice or LibreOffice or....)and the computer they belong to. They slow me down (I formulate faster than I can type), they tie me to a chair, they give me RSI, they collect dust and food and they require anti-virus, updates and backups. They are slow to start-up or shut-down and when they brake you need somebody from IT to help you out since they consider you too stupid to do that work yourself
            How can anybody LIKE computers? They are a necessary evil but personally I cannot wait till the mobile revolution really takes off and I can finally start talking to my devices. By that time we can bring the keyboard to a museum, right next to the papertape-readers and morse key.
  • All things have two sides

    On the one hand mobile brings to our life convenient, on the other hand to pull away the distance between people.
  • Mobile Devices Are Not Thin Clients

    It's worth noting that Android devices are proper, if tiny, computers, capable of running proper application software. The idea of developing web-based apps, with little more than custom CSS to adapt them to mobile devices, is not exactly getting the users very enthusiastic. They want proper platform-specific native apps.
    • capable of running proper applications?

      please enumarate
  • Amazing chart

    I've been talking about this for a few years now. Glad to see an analyst earning the label, and getting noticed for it.

    Also, for the rational tone of the comments.
  • Pretty graph

    Marketshares can change for 2 reasons:
    l. Sales can rise or fall.
    2. Market sizes can change.

    Since you've decided that iOS and Android are "in" this market but millions and millions of Symbian, Blackberry, and feature phones that could browse the web (anyone remember WAP?) were never in this market, it does look like Wintel suddenly lost most of their sales. That hasn't happened as her next slide proves. Desktop + notebook sales have not dropped noticeably. The trend is that people are upgrading their phones and analysts have decided that these new phones "count". Tablets are new but again, don't seem to be replacing huge percentages of PCs.

    Is there a trend? Yes, a small one. With fantastic devices like the Microsoft Surface RT that is a tablet but unlike iPads, can actually be used to create content, the distinction between PC and tablet becomes even more difficult to make. True, they aren't Wintel but they are Winarm. Have Wintel products lost 60% of their sales though? No, sorry Wintel haters. All that's happened is that analysts have redefined what "counts" in the market. It would be like deciding tomorrow that apples sold at grocery stores were in the same market as Apples sold at Apple stores. Overnight, Apple market share would go from 100% to 0.001%. Death to Apple? Hardly.