Shortly after Steve Jobs strode on stage in 2007 and unveiled his latest invention, cynics around the world laughed and called it a toy. Today, touch-based devices, whether they’re smartphones or tablets, have fundamentally changed our personal and professional lives. Needless to say those critics were catastrophically wrong.
Although smart devices are prevalent in developed nations, in many ways the mobile revolution is just getting started. According to Deloitte’s report on the global mobile consumer more than a billion smart devices are being shipped every year. That number is set to grow as consumers in developing nations begin to abandon their feature phones in favour of cheap smart devices. For these people, a smart device will be a pathway to the internet – something they will probably never have the need or desire to experience on a traditional desktop computer.
It’s this massive growth that has lead Deloitte to state that for business leaders, it’s no longer just a mobile-first strategy – it’s a mobile-only strategy that is going to propel growth into the future.
It’s also this growth that will tie together the three horsemen of the post-PC revolution – that is, cloud, social and big data. How? Some, including independent analyst Ben Thompson, writing for his website Stratechery, have identified it as the Digital Hub 2.0. If the PC was the first digital hub, allowing us to store and access media all in one place, mobile and smart devices will allow businesses and consumers to access virtually any form of data – be it banking, social or entertainment – from virtually any place via a smart device.
“Assume that Moore’s Law continues, batteries make a leap forward, flexible displays improve, etc,” writes Thompson. “Suddenly, instead of a phone that uses surrounding screens, like the iPhone does in the car and the living room, why might not our wrist project to a dumb screen (with a phone form-factor) in our pocket as well? Imagine all of our computing life, on our wrist, ready to project a context-appropriate UI to whichever screen is at hand.”
Thompson’s piece highlights the fact that the mobile revolution and the rise of the smart device won’t be restricted to the smartphone. Wearable computers, perhaps a smartwatch or something with an optical head-mounted display, will become part of an all-pervasive ring of screens spread throughout our lives, some of them dependent on a smartphone in the pocket for computing power; others purely accessing cloud-based processing and services for their deep functionality.
The revolution then – which businesses need to be part of – isn’t so much a revolution of smart devices as it is a revolution of smart screens surrounding our daily lives. We’ll use the screen that’s most convenient – a pocket computer, wristwatch or glasses – to access contextual information when we need it.
This is why businesses need to embrace what the Deloitte analysts call ‘mobile only’ – all the while bearing in mind that the mobile device of tomorrow won’t necessarily be the smartphone or tablet of today. Tomorrow’s mobile devices will become woven into the fabric of consumers’ lives, giving them access to data and processing power that we’re only just beginning to become aware of. Viva la (mobile) revolution!