As a new study from Pew shows, Google and Apple have good reason to adopt a mobile-first strategy, and concerns about Microsoft's future as it falls behind in the mobile race may be justified.
In surveying 2,252 adults in May, Pew found that 40 percent of them use cellphones to browse the Web or send e-mails or text messages. That may seem reasonable in a world where people stand in endless lines to get the latest iPhone (and news about the device's antenna problems dominate entire news cycles), but consider this -- in April 2009 that number stood at just 32 percent. That means that 8 out of every 100 Americans started accessing the mobile Web over the last year.
If you include laptops using a Wi-Fi connection or broadband card, 59 percent of Americans access the Web wirelessly now, up from 51 percent in 2009.
In the 2010 survey, 34 percent of respondents said they send or receive e-mail using their phone, up from 25 percent last year. Seventy-two percent are texting, compared to 65 percent in 2009. And 38 percent are now accessing the Internet from their phones -- a whopping 13 percent more than the 25 percent who were doing the same last April.
But those overall numbers are puny in comparison to the 18 to 29 year-old age group. Ninety-five percent of them are texting, 65 percent are browsing the Web, and 52 percent are e-mailing. Forty-eight percent of them use social networking sites on their phone, and 20 percent have purchased items using their phone.
It's safe to say that the mobile revolution is well upon us, which is why Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that his company's programmers "are doing work on mobile first." And it's also why many are fretting about Microsoft, which has struggled to play in the mobile world. CEO Steve Ballmer has called Google's mobile-first focus "wrong-headed," but the recent shakeup of the company's consumer products unit shows the pressure is on as it prepares to roll out Windows Phone 7. Especially following the collapse of Kin.
Ballmer in May suggested that Kin -- the company's bid to win a part of the youth market with a social networking-oriented phone -- would be a big hit. Two months later, Microsoft has killed Kin, after spending $1 billion and years on development. On his blog Daring Fireball, John Gruber put the total number of Kins sold by Verizon at 503. That's an absurdly low number, but even the high estimates fall short of 10,000.That's a bad sign for Microsoft, which in the long term cannot afford to not be competitive in the skyrocketing mobile market.