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Shocking news: People do lots on their smartphones

Galen Gruman | May 3, 2016
What is blindingly obvious to many is still something new to many others, reflecting the reality of how change happens

Maybe it's the absence of real mobile news lately, but I've seen a crush of "studies" that show people use their mobile devices to do Web searches, bank, make restaurant reservations, watch videos, and buy tickets to events -- to buy all sorts of goods and service, in fact. Some people even use their smartphones as credit cards and transit passes!

Who knew??

Seriously, this is "duh" news. It's why Intel had to lay off 12,000 people this year. PC sales have plummeted over the last five or so years as people use them less and mobile devices more -- and Intel 10 years ago bet that wouldn't be true.

Except in some quarters, the realization that people have made mobile devices -- particularly smartphones -- their key computing device is exactly that: a realization. The unkind me guesses the fact that nearly every adult -- and many children -- carries one hasn't registered. Or that you see them in use everywhere you go: standing in line, sitting in a bus or car, dining in a restaurant, watching TV on the couch.

Worse, many organizations have yet to make that realization. For example, I still see Flash components on websites at banks, airlines, and telecommunications providers -- which of course don't work on any mobile devices. And I still see many sites -- government, business, even commerce -- that don't have responsive design to automatically reformat themselves for smartphone and tablet screens.

Nine years after the iPhone's and Android's debuts and six years after the iPad's debut, you'd think that developers and IT organizations would have seen the light. But many haven't made that realization -- or perhaps don't have the resources and commitment to act on it.

But the kind me remembers that change takes time, even "fast" change like the rise of the iPhone and the displacement of the BlackBerry, a seven-year event that is slow by individual revoking but fast in terms of systemic change.

Internet adoption proceeded along the same pace, as did email adoption. The rate of PC adoption was a little slower, though not much. Cloud computing has moved at a slower tick, taking more than a decade to get real momentum started (recall that the first big cloud vendor,, launched its "No Software" campaign in late 1999). Only in the last few years has cloud computing become an accepted IT state, even if it's still a future state for many.

Like cloud technology, mobile technology remains unevenly distributed in the real world. And "duh" surveys on mobile's widespread adoption by people are unfortunately still needed to convince IT organizations, technology providers, and public-facing businesses to get serious about mobile devices.


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