The modern electronic computer was invented during the second world war, but home PCs came along in the mid-to-late 1970s. Remember first, that about a third of all PCs in use are at the office, used at work. I am only measuring now the home penetration rates of PCs. But this measurement includes all desktops, laptops and tablet PCs like the iPad. I am not counting smartphones in this category.
Worldwide estimations call for about 900 million PCs that are in use in the homes. That is only 13% of a penetration rate per capita, but remember, the real number is bigger when we add the PCs we can use at work. But yes, homes. 49% of all homes worldwide have a PC if divided evenly. Of course that isn't really the case, we have 425 million PC households in the Industrialized World, or 89% of homes have a PC. Meanwhile in the Emerging World, there are only 475 million PCs or a PC in 35% of the homes. Bear in mind that total number per annum is 450-500 million new PCs sold.
I calculated the reach of PCs if we use the literate age population, and found that home use of PCs has a theoretical reach of literate users in the Industrialized World of 1.06 Billion people (obviously not all will want to use the PC even where their family has one). In the Emerging World the theoretical reach is 2.05 Billion people. So combined, the theoretical maximum home user potential for PCs when sharing their home PCs is 3.1 Billion people (also remember, not all of these are internet-connected, we'll look at the internet stats below).
I also have a very unscientific estimate of how many 'actual' total home users there are for the installed base of personal computers at home. We can be pretty sure that if there is a PC in the home, it will be used by one person in the home. And we can be pretty sure that in every case in every home, not every person will be wanting to use the PC. So if we take the mid-point of those two extremes, we get a total very rough estimator of the total worldwide user base of personal computers today, at about 2 Billion people. So it might be someone going online, but it might be the kids doing their homework or someone playing a computer game, etc.INTERNET
Then came the internet. The ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network)
was launched in 1969 when the first four computers were connected in what became The Internet. How far has the internet come since then? Ah, now we get very many fuzzy stats as we have home users, work users, internet-cafe style users, and of course increasingly users of the internet on their mobile phones - which can be smartphones, but can also be simpler 'featurephones' many of which have real HTML browsers
, and even simpler very rudimentary browser services on a limited set of web standards called WAP, also called the 'mobile internet'.
Roughly speaking the world has about 2.4 Billion internet users today. Of those, about 1.5 Billion (60% of internet users) use a personal computer some of the time, or all of the time, either at home, at the office, or in a shared capacity at an internet cafe or the library, school, university etc. Most of those will also use a mobile phone to access browser-based web content at least some of the time.
And talking of mobile, of the 2.4 Billion internet users, today 1.7 Billion people (68% of internet users, 29% of all mobile phone subscribers) use their mobile phones some of the time on their personal account or their work phone, to access at least some web or email content on their phone. Many who do, will also use a PC obviously.
So we get the extremes. Today only 700 million people - 28% of internet users, will only use a PC to access the web, and 72% will use a mobile part of the time or both a mobile and a PC. Similarly, today, about 900 million people - 36% of internet users - will never use a PC and only access the web on a mobile phone. And yes, obviously, the remaining part is 900 million people - 36% of internet users - who will at times surf on their PC and at other times surf on their phone.
So just for those who are still not with the program - including some pretty clueless analysts - the point where more 'users' of the internet came from mobile phones than PCs happened two years ago - as reported by IBM, Nokia etc - and those analysts who are promising it will happen in a few years from now, are hopelessly out-of-date with their analysis. In most major internet countries from India, China, Russia, Brazil (BRIC)
, Japan etc, the majority of internet users come from mobile phones already today. Even the laggard countries like the USA are nearing the mid-point. Remember, the 'traffic' will be far less on mobile phones than the PC, so if you measure browsing page counts, advertisements serviced, total data loads, etc, then yes, by all those measures there is still a long way to go where most of the traffic is from mobile (and that day will come too). But the first milestone has come and passed - today more web users do come from mobile phones than PCs.HOUSEHOLDS AND THE PC-BASED INTERNET
Look at the Digital Divide
again. In many cases the 'mobile' internet is an expensive proposition on 3G networks, needs advanced phones, and the experience is not yet really comparable to the old-fashioned legacy internet on a PC using a broadband connection. For those who may just want to go share some pictures of the family event, or watch some YouTube videos or post updates to Facebook, if the home PC is connected to the internet, that is usually a far more friendly way to go web-surfing than attempting to do so on a smartphone, for the mass market consumer.
How are our home internet connections spread out by the Digital Divide? 410 million homes, or 83% of all households in the Industrialized World have an internet connection via a PC. That is 96% of all PC-households. But in the Emerging World there are only 440 million households that have an internet connection. That's only one in three homes, i.e. 33% and it corresponds with 93% of the homes with a PC. In total 850 million households or 47% of homes have an internet connection worldwide.
My consultancy calculated the total addressable market for people living in homes with an internet-connected PC, and the potential reach of literate age household members in those homes would be 2.9 Billion people. But only 900 million of them - 31% use the family PC to access the internet (remember, there are more PC based users who will use a work PC, internet cafe, school or university or library PC and/or their mobile phone).
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