The World Wide Web turns 20 years old this month, and to that I say, "Happy Birthday WWW!" It was 20 years ago that Tim Berners-Lee put up the first website. This milestone means it's a good time to reflect on the end of an era. The PC-based web had a good run but it's coming to a close. The next chapter has already begun, and it's all about smart phones and tablets. In 2011 for the first time, smart phone and tablet shipments will exceed PC shipments. Since usage follows shipments, Gartner expects that mobile devices will overtake PCs in web usage in 2013. Given recent trends, I'd say it's more likely that this will happen next year. Google's $12.5 billion pickup of Motorola confirms that the future lies in mobile.
In June, mobile app analytics firm Flurry announced that consumers are already spending more time in mobile apps than on the PC or mobile web. This is particularly noteworthy given that these types of apps didn't even exist three years ago and are now the most-utilized connected service on the planet. Clearly users have already shown that they prefer short, bursty web experiences on a mobile device over long sit-downs with a keyboard and mouse.
From the conversations I have with publishers every day, one thing is clear: they are planning on delivering more impressions to mobile devices than to PCs in the near future. Some of the top publishers, whose web businesses are 5-10 years older than their mobile businesses, are already doing so. This fact presents its own set of problems for these companies. For publishers, the key is to develop a mobile-first strategy that makes a version designed entirely for the mobile device, rather than a adapting it from the PC experience. In the post-PC world, customers will expect simpler, more curated experiences that are tailored to them. Publishers, in effect, will need to be better at delivering the experience that a user craves without the user having to ask for it.
At the outset of the mobile revolution, industry analysts said that these devices were too small to be used by a mainstream audience for video consumption. Cisco said recently that although 3% of all internet traffic originates from mobile devices today, by 2015 mobile devices will contribute 15% of IP traffic. Two-thirds of that traffic will be video. In addition, the widespread adoption of HTML5 standards for mobile web and applications will help to standardize video delivery.
For publishers and advertisers, the post-PC world will mean adapting business models and user experiences to fit a different device type. It means the rudimentary targeting capabilities we have developed today will need to be expanded. The companies that drive this change will be the winners in the post-PC era.