Billionth PC, meet billionth mobile

How far we've come, how far the industry has to go

How far we've come, how far the industry has to go

So there are now more than a billion mobile phone users in the world. We were reminded of this fact, as calculated to the end of Q2 this year, by a press release yesterday from Baskerville. It sounded familiar but then we could have been thinking about another 'billionth' - the billionth PC was also sold this summer, according to figures from Gartner. We can't go as far as identifying who bought these landmark units. No bells went off in a supermarket in Mexico or kiosk in Hong Kong. But the billion mark comes at an interesting time for both industries. It's no great revelation that sales of both PCs and mobiles have stalled. However, these are global figures for the generic devices, and don't tell the whole story. The Baskerville report shows sales of mobiles in some markets are still strong. Eastern Europe has seen annual growth of 62 per cent to the end of June while the Asia Pacific region, and in particular China, continues to grow apace. For PCs, while 2001 witnessed only the second ever decline in annual sales, Gartner predicts the next billion devices will be sold by as early as 2007 - far faster than the first billion. But there is something more important going on here. These devices as we know them - and they were fairly straightforward during the 1990s - are now evolving. While outright growth (of both) may be driven by consumers in China, increases in much of the developed world will be down to more sophisticated, hybrid devices. The Western European mobile market is almost saturated so the onus is on new, data-centric devices. Pure terminal growth may not match the last decade but it is there, given the right conditions and innovation. PCs, meanwhile, will benefit from new form factors and integrated communications technology, for example based on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chipsets. You may not know a whole lot about tablet PCs and ultra PCs but we bet you will in two years. Taking an incredibly macro view, both industries will grow again but if nothing else, it is doubtful measuring units of 'PCs' or 'mobiles' will be easy five years from now.