Thursday, March 06, 2008

One mobile for every two people in the world

The year was 1981, the first Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT) networks were switched on in 1981 in Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Norway.

1982, 100 Mobile Phones weighing about 2 pounds each were given to consumers in Washington (which then had 7 cell phone relay towers). People were excited about the fact that it got no wires. They tested it on top of buildings, while playing tennis, on the streets.

Peter Erb, president of a pioneering cellphone company called Millicom, made a seemingly extravagant claim: "We're talking about 50 to 60 million over the next 20 or 30 years." He only underestimated by a factor of 60.

Not as legendary or fateful a mistake as AT&T's, however. In 1980, the company whose Bell Labs invented cellphones listened to McKinsey, the consulting company they'd hired. Its estimate of the market in the year 2000 was off by a factor of 120 -- not even 1 percent of the real number. Based on that, AT&T decided there wasn't much future to these toys. Not coincidentally, in 2005, it was swallowed up by SBC Communications Inc., originally a Baby Bell.

It is believed that in November 2007, the mobile phones have crossed the number 3.3 Billion, thats exactly the half of world's population.

"Communication, not cleanliness, is next to godliness." says Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired magazine, who is writing a book about "what technology wants." He observed whle staying at a house in Tibet that houses there had no toilets but every household has a mobile phone.

Getting back to the numbers, there is now one cellphone for every two humans on Earth.

From essentially zero, we've passed a watershed of more than 3.3 billion active cellphones on a planet of some 6.6 billion humans in about 26 years. This is the fastest global diffusion of any technology in human history -- faster even than the polio vaccine.

"We knew this was going to happen a few years ago. And we know how it will end," says Eric Schmidt, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Google. "It will end with 5 billion out of the 6" with cellphones. "A reasonable prediction is 4 billion in the next few years -- the current proposal is 4 billion by 2010. And then the final billion or so within a few years thereafter.

"Eventually there will be more cellphone users than people who read and write. I think if you get that right, then everything else becomes obvious."

"It's the technology most adapted to the essence of the human species -- sociability," says Arthur Molella, director of the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. "It's the ultimate tool to find each other. It's wonderful technology for being human."

What does this mean, has man finally made for himself the ultimate tool that can be made with technology or has the technology attacked the human race with its ultimate destructive ammunition. There seems to be view points from either side of the coin. there are people who believe that mobile phone with features like Mobile payments, camera, music playing , radio... has seamlessly integrated every possible gadget into one single piece of tool that goes comfortably into one's pocket. On the other hand there are people who think the mobile phones have made their lives more of a nuisance and people have started to loose their touch with their surroundings while they are constantly making efforts to keep in touch with people who are faraway.

Nevertheless, there is still scope to design and innovate people's experiences with a mobile phone, so that it becomes more friendly than nuisance, before the other half of the people also get used to the Mobile phone as it is now. This revolution of innovations need to happen now, for both increasing the penetration and also to make sure the existing users have better experiences with the mobile phone.

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