This is according to the research firm Gartner. Smartphones are in demand, just as PCs were in demand last decade. Everyone wants the latest 3G device so they can stay connected. Why the growth? Simply wireless access is more convenient then tethered hardwired access.
At this week's Mobile World Congress there was Smartphone excitement on steroids. So then where was the network to handle all this data?
Areas marked "free Wi-Fi here" often had no or painfully slow connections. Demonstrations from Microsoft, Google, Intel, and Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion, among others, became comical when the presenters were unable to connect even to their own networks. What was going on everyone inquired.
Google's Eric Schmidt summed it up the best, "That's the problem with networking conventions," said Schmidt during a keynote address this week. "Everyone is on the network."
Cisco, which operated the free Wi-Fi network at Mobile World Congress -- and plastered that fact all over the convention -- estimated that there were 40,000 unique devices trying to connect to its network alone. Average peak usage reached about 3,200 devices managing to connect simultaneously to Cisco's 110 access points.
Each day's biggest device announcement eclipsed the day's before. More bandwidth needed Scotty! That I suppose is just part of the hype of the conference. Anyone that has attended a Comdex Conference back in the 1990s or an Apple Computer Developer Conferencewill attest to the electricity and hype in the air.
As further evidence, China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou said in a keynote address this week that wireless cellular networks will never be able to keep up with the rapid rise in mobile data demand from their users. Wi-Fi must be rolled out in public areas to offload some of the traffic onto other networks, he said.
Smartphone innovation comes rapidly, some manufacturers can only keep up by announcing the next big thing. The Mac journalist Jim Dalrymple called out Research in Motion: "Shut up and ship." He observed that RIM talks lots about new tablets -- "that's three generations of PlayBook tablets announced in five months, and we still have not seen a single product make it to market." Some evidence of this can be found on CIOZone at a recent product demo, but still no product release, yet.
Gartner recently claims that US consumers are more likely to buy a smartphone than any other device. "Continued low retail pricing and widespread adoption of applications like Web browsing, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, GPS and games will continue to stimulate consumer demand," said Hugues de la Vergne, Gartner principal research analyst, in a statement. Faster smartphone adoption will change the market, "which will shift from the more technically astute tech savants toward less tech-savvy comfortable conformists. Issues such as ease of use will become even more important in 2011"
While many consumers can't chatter enough about Android vs iOS vs other mobile operating systems, other buyers won't really care. "First-time smartphone buyers may not be familiar with the range of operating systems and the different versions of those OSes," de la Vergne asserted.
Gartner used two data points to make its claim about consumers' buying preferences: Its smartphone and PC forecasts and a December 2010 survey. The analyst firm expects 95 million smartphone sales this year, up from 67 million in 2010. By comparison, PC shipments are expected to be 50.9 million, up from 45.6 million. However, it should be noted that IDC and Gartner PC forecasts have proved unreliable of late, with shipments falling below expectations. So that nearly 51 million number could prove to be optimistic.
The survey assesses buying intent, which is not always the best indicator of actual purchases. What people say they will do often represents what they want to do. Often they do something different. Gartner's ranking of gadgets Americans say they will buy in 2011, in order of intent:
3. Desktop PC
4. Mobile handset (other than smartphone)
5. E-book reader
6. Media tablet
Considering all the hype around media tablets - there have been 90 devices announced for 2011 so far, we will have to wait and see what actually gets delivered in the form of a product.
Apple had a great three quarters with iPad, shipping more than 14 million devices and generating about $10 billion in revenue. If Gartner's survey is accurate in projecting buying intentions, PC manufacturers don't have to much to fear from tablet competition because the tablet market is already overcrowded. There are just too many entrants for the amount of consumer demand in 2011.
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