Turning point, fork in the road, this year will have more than most. Anyone who has studied the history of the mobile phone, the fax and internet penetration knows the importance of the 20% rule. Once a networked service reaches 20% penetration growth accelerates.
Last year internet penetration went through 20% of the global population. The latest estimates put the number of people connected to the internet at 1.7bn according to Wikipedia. My company, Cykeparters, estimates that more than 20% of the mobile handsets sold in the US are now smartphones. Globally the number of mobile subscribers on a 3G network recently passed 20%.
This year Qualcomm estimates 3G handset will outsell ordinary mobile handsets for the first time ever. Meanwhile Ericsson forecasts that this is the year that mobile internet connections outnumber fixed line internet connections.
Now this is just awful news for mobile operators because it means one thing - bad publicity. The reason is that their networks are unable to keep up with all the traffic. Following the launch of Apple's latest iPhone last year, Youtube stated that video uploads from mobile phones rose by over 400%. Weeping and wailing was heard from San Francisco to New York as AT&T's network kept dropping the ball. This Christmas AT&T had a new cell mate in the doghouse. In London the O2 network repeatedly crashed because of iPhone generated traffic.
Things look set to get worse with data hungary devices, such as Google's new Nexus and a posse of Android devices that are data hungary and come with video cameras. Those people at Apple are of course at it again too . If the rumours are correct, on the 26th January the company will launch the iTablet, or maybe it will be called the iSlate. Either way, the new device looks as though it will be optimised to carry video.
As a result there have been rumours that Apple is holding talks with a number of video and TV content providers to offer a subscription service similar to iTunes. This makes sense. With 3G penetration and connection speeds rising, and a likely surge in WiFi hotspots those old distinctions between TV, phones and computers will evaporate. We are moving to a world where every nook and cranny of the economy and environment will be saturated by wireless broadband and video content. We will live in a present saturated by data. One manifestation of this will be the growth in augmented reality. If Apple ever opens its video APIs on the iPhone interest in this technology will surge.
Cisco has estimated that mobile video will dominate network traffic by 2013. Mobile, plus video, plus social networking is a game changer. As Samuel Beckett (following Bishop Berkley) said, to be seen is to be. This plugs in to a very real human need. When Freud was alive repressed sexuality was the force that shaped the human psyche. Not many people today are sexually repressed; at least not in my neighbourhood. If Freud were alive today my guess is that most of his patients would not be complaining about Oedipus they would be talking instead about Big Brother, Hello Magazine and why they haven't yet made it on to Oprah. Today's citizens have hang-ups about identity not sex.
My hunch therefore is that companies, like Apple and Google and a host of others, such as Arm in the UK, that are linked to mobile video and smartphone theme will continue to surprise us on the upside. The 1970s were a terrible time for the economy but a golden period for tech. The same pattern is likely to be repeated over the next few years.
Hi, I'm Keith Woolcock, I look for emerging themes and technologies that have the power to create and destroy businesses. I search for those points in life where change is taking place at the fastest pace. I have worked both as an national newspaper journalist and tech analyst with banks such as Merrill Lynch and Nomura