Today the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a new mobile report stating that 56% of adult Americans now have smart phones, with between 70 to 80% penetration among younger demographics, college grads and the well-off. You can see the full report here.
Here's the thing to look twice at: it's not 56% of mobile phone users who have smart phones, according to Pew, it's 56% of all adult Americans.
Many research companies have tracked a greater than 50% penetration of smart phones among all mobile users, as you'll see here in this graphic from my friends at eMarketer:
However, the Pew number is a milestone along the lines of when Nielsen first claimed that greater than 50% of Americans had broadband access back in the fall of 2004.
Combining this Pew number with Monday's announcement of the "TV Untethered" study finding that 82% of tablet and 64% of smartphone mobile video consumption occurs in the home provokes some head-scratching, "what's going to happen next?" pondering.
Here are a few guesses for how the landscape will change in the next five to 10 years:
Mass proliferation of smart phones in combination with the acceleration of bandwidth and the increased ease of cloud computing will write the execution order for most hardware as we know it, and that will include tablets.
We've already seen a steep decline of new desktop and laptop purchases, but tablets -- even the beloved iPad -- will eventually be seen as a transient technology like the Betamax, Apple Newton and HD DVD disk.
The smart phone will evolve into a personal digital hub that effortlessly connects to a variety of dumb monitors and peripherals like keyboards, mice and track pads. (FWIW, I wrote extensively about this sort of thing in my science fiction novel, Redcrosse, just a couple of years ago.)
When you leave the house in the morning you'll have your phone, any analog papers that you need (of which there will be few), your jacket and that's it.
Heads up display and wearable computing appliances (Google Glass, Nike Fuelband) will become the next big milestone that trend watchers will eye with glee-- when 50% of Americans own and use a heads up display we'll see another series of tectonic shifts in user behavior. Current nagging-little-brother problems like show rooming and cord cutting will turn pandemic.
But what I'm most excited about with heads up display, though, is what I can't see clearly but what I know is coming. As the iPod created an entire new genre of media on the podcast, so will 24/7/365 + 360 degree connectivity create new genres… and if we get them right they'll be ultra niche but also profitable for producers, users and creators alike.
Don't get comfy: the ride is only going to get bumpier.