Meeker Speaks

Meeker Speaks

Michael Finneran JPG 125
Meeker Speaks by Michael F. Finneran

Mary Meeker, renowned technology soothsayer and partner at venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, presented her annual “State of the Internet” report at D: All Things Digital Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. on Wednesday, and as usual it was packed with insight. As her analysis deals with the technology markets and their impact on society as a whole, Ms. Meeker’s predictions did not address UC per se. However, as most trends in enterprise adoption of technology start in the consumer space, much of what she has to say will likely “trickle down” to the office at some point.

If there was one theme that seemed to weave its way through the presentation it was “mobile connectedness.” People are expecting to have access to the internet continuously, and to do that Ms. Meeker noted, “We’re moving in the cycle of wearables, driveables, flyables and scannables.” Worldwide Internet users grew eight percent between 2012 and 2013 with the bulk of that coming from the developing world; U.S. Internet users grew three percent while Iran grew 205 percent.

Google topped the list of Internet properties with 1.1 billion unique visitors per month followed by Microsoft with around 850 million, Facebook with 825 million, and Yahoo with a respectable 700 million. One of the more interesting comparisons I found was the willingness of people in different countries to share their lives online. In a worldwide study that asked users if they shared “everything” or “most things” online, Saudi Arabia came in first with 60 percent followed by India with just over 50 percent and Indonesia with an even 50 percent. The U.S. actually came in 15th with just 15 percent answering in the positive, well below the world average of 24 percent. You can’t generalize around regions either; South Korea came in fourth with 40 percent positive responses where Japan came in last with under 5 percent.

For the moment the biggest element of that sharing is photos. Fewer than 400 million photos were uploaded in all of 2012, but almost 550 million have been uploaded thus far in 2013, so we’re on track for better than a 2x increase. Facebook and Instagram account for almost 400 million of the 2013 total, though Snapchat (which allows users to set a timer on when their photos will disappear) saw their total jump from around 50 million in 2012 to 150 million thus far in 2013. On the video front, YouTube saw the number of hours of video uploaded per minute jump from around 70 hours in 2012 to 100 hours in 2013.

With the move to mobile social, global mobile traffic grew from 1 percent of Internet traffic in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012 with the expectation it will reach 20 percent this year and 25 percent next year. In China, the world’s largest population of Internet (564 million) and mobile phone (1.15 billion) users, the percentage of users accessing the Internet using mobile phones is expected to surpass desktops this year. Morgan Stanley estimates there are currently 1.5 billion smartphone users worldwide but that could grow to 5 billion or more in the next year.

On the larger device front, tablets are clearly weighing down the PC market. Comparing the sales in the first 12 months after introduction, Apple’s iPad sold more than twice as many units as the iPhone. It is likely the case that the iPhone “greased the skids” for iPad adoption having opened consumer’s minds regarding what they could expect on a mobile device, but Morgan Stanley shows shipments of desktops and laptops dropping by 15 million from 2011 to today.

Like many of us in the mobile space, Ms. Meeker is predicting the next wave in mobile to be “wearables, driveables, flyables and scannables,” in effect things that will tie our lives even more closely to the mobile connected experience. Whether it’s Google Glass, a smartwatch, or a unit in your car, your smartphone can stay in your pocket or your purse and not only keep you connected, but keep you in touch with your environment. Of course Detroit is going to have to come up with a reasonable solution to the problem of integrating consumer electronics that we keep for two years with a car that we may keep for 10.

Ms. Meeker is also very positive on the energy that the younger generation is bringing into the business world, and they are coming at it with a whole different worldview than their parents. Where our generation was shaped by the cold war, Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and the status of the U.S. as the supreme superpower, the next generations were shaped by 9/11, the financial crisis, rising unemployment levels, the growth of China as a super power.

The thing that always impresses me about Ms. Meeker’s research is that it gives background and context to things that we see going on around us and makes solid projections on where those trends will take us. More than that, it goes beyond technology trends to merge social developments to give real depth to her predictions. Finally, she takes a whole world view of what’s occurring and is not afraid to say that not every big idea is going to come from the U.S. or Western Europe. This is someone who’s always worth listening to.


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