That’s the new analysis from Gartner; if you consider the “dawn of the tablet age” to be January 2010 (when iPad’s first generation hit), that’s fairly substantial growth. (There were tablets as far back as 1997 by some arguments, although they weren’t commercially successful yet.) Meanwhile, nearly 2 billion people — 25 percent of the planet — will have mobile phones by 2015 (there are somewhere on the order of 6 billion mobile plans, which is about 85 percent of the world). These aren’t necessarily high-end iPhones, iPads, Androids, and Surfaces; there is a little bit (a lot) of non-branded smaller tablets and phones. The business dynamics of each region are obviously different, although most analysts seem to agree that the large majority of growth in ’14 and ’15 will come from outside of North America. Meanwhile, app downloads might be a $77 billion industry by 2017.
I actually had a job interview a couple of days ago with a mobile marketing firm (cross your fingers) and one of the pre-work assignments was to write about this whole idea. I’m not going to re-post what I wrote there, but the crux of it is: if you’re a business and you don’t have some kind of strategy around potential customers/fans/partners finding you via a tablet or their phone, you’re dead in the water. There are all kinds of various theories around the future of tablets and ideas on how cell phones could save the world, and recently IBM announced they’re going to hire 1,000 people and dedicate $100 million to the digital/mobile marketing experience. “Mobile marketing automation” — essentially, programs designed to reach people on their devices while they’re out and about — is considered a hot new thing. For many items, as many as 1 in 6 searches can be mobile-based.
Point is: even though it can feel like people are saying “Such-and-such is the future” for 12-15 years before it actually is the future, the continued rise of tablets/mobile — along with the continued (4-6 percent) decline of PCs — should signal that it is now the future. So get a strategy around it and find a way to reach more of the world than any type of “traditional” marketing approach. In fact, I’d probably go ahead and chuck the word “traditional” from marketing dialogue totally for 2014.