A few years ago I went on a business trip to Tokyo for Google. The first iPhone was just released months earlier. Nokia sold the most phones. Blackberry was exploding. I owned a Motorola Q.
And here I arrive in Japan. As I walk through the streets, I see cab drivers using full screen mobile phones watching live TV. LIVE TV. I see kids using their phones to buy anything under $50 in 3 seconds at virtually any store in the city. Just swipe the phone over a reader. Done. I see another person take a picture of a QR code (those funny looking black and white squares) on a movie poster in the subway, and then buy the movie ticket right there and then. I couldn’t believe it. And this was almost 3 years ago.
Many of the things I saw still aren’t fully adopted in the US, but it’s clear now that I viewed a strangely prescient landscape in Japan. To this day I still get the feeling that I was glimpsing into the future by visiting the other side of the world.
So when the pundits of today’s tech media talk about the mobile web, I’m always surprised how long it took for people to realize this trend was going to define us. I felt compelled to write about this though because I still think the magnitude of this change still has not been adequately examined.
In Mary Meeker’s recent presentation, she provided evidence that “more users will connect to the Internet over mobile devices than desktop PCs.” To me this reads as: “Hey, sometime soon mobile usage will edge out desktop usage.”
But after thinking more about my visit to Japan, I’ve come to believe for a while now that the mobile web will absolutely dominate the desktop web. In the same presentation, Meeker does explore the Japan effect on a popular website, although this slide is much less discussed by the media. In the slide below she shows the usage statistics for Mixi, an incredibly popular Japanese social networking site:
Sure Mixi lends itself to mobile and you could say Japanese trends don’t necessarily apply elsewhere, but I still think it’s striking that most recently 16% of pageviews came from a computer. 16%. How many people building new businesses and web-based services today (except phone-only app developers) really are anticipating that the service may be used 84% of the time on a phone?
For all the talk about how mobile has changed everything in the last year or two, I’d say the change is just beginning.