When you see people standing in long lines to buy the “more colorful” iPhone 5C—or if you stand in a line like that sometime soon—remember this: According to new research from the newly-relaunched Broadband Technology Service at IHS, by 2017, there will be 8 billion Internet-connected video devices in the world.
That is more than the world’s population will be in 2017, which is estimated to be 7.4 billion.
So there will be 1.1 Internet devices out there for every person in the world. If the digital advertising industry can’t do something with a gang that big, it never will.
“In practice, ownership of Internet-connected hardware will be concentrated among users whose homes are equipped with broadband connections,” said Merrick Kingston, senior analyst for Broadband Technology Service, in a press release.
“We’re quickly approaching a world where the average broadband household contains 10 connected, video-enabled devices. This means that each TV set installed in a broadband-equipped home will be surrounded by three Internet-connected devices.”
And so many more around the world. It is hard to imagine seeing “Error 404: Page Not Found” in the world’s top 2,000 languages and on large screens, but not hard to believe that once a new Internet user finds it, he or she will be any better able to know who or what made the error, or what to do about it than we are.
In this way, the Internet is certainly helping cement the bond of bafflement globally.
Here’s another amazing thing. The United Nations estimates only about 40% of the world enjoy indoor plumbing.
And we (assuming you’re one of us) may not be as impressed with the old porcelain American Standard as you’d think. At the TED conference in Long Beach in February, attendees were asked if they’d rather have indoor plumbing or an iPhone. In a disturbingly close vote (if you ask me) plumbing won (60% to 40%), but this was before the iPhone 5c came out. These are the deep thinkers out there. They have their reasons, I guess.
It certainly sounds, or intends to sound, like I’m cracking wise. But in fact, I really shouldn’t be. Our fascination with the Internet and Internet devices is beyond being rational. There. I’ve said it. It’s nutty. I won’t deny that the Internet, and all the devices and Websites it spawned, haven’t done great things, and of course, it’s facilitated some really bad things, too. What it is still doing is building a massive advertising presence with online video. Obviously, it will get there. It is literally growing screens.
But its growth defies logic, especially in a world of such obvious and plentiful have-nots. The number of things—tablets, smart TVs, games consoles, PCs—will increase by 90% between now and 2017. The installed base of video-enabled devices that are connected to the Internet—a category that includes diverse product such as tablets, smart TVs, games consoles, smartphones, connected set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, and PCs—will expand to 8.2 billion units in 2017 from 4.3 billion today. I remember shadowy reports about a decade ago in which researchers said a majority of people had a computer and a TV set in the same room in their homes. Impossible!
PCs are really going away, by the way. By 2017, they’ll make up only 23% of the total connected base. In 2005, that was 93%. In 2017, smartphones and tablets will constitute 67% of the total. Smart TVs will be only 5% of the total.
And while it’s certainly true that Internet and computer use is expanding rapidly in the developing world, most of the gizmos are in homes that already have stuff and are just piling it on. Broadband Technology Service says the number of connected devices in North American and Western European regions will grow 10% by 2017, while Asia-Pacific will add 1.9 billion devices and sub-Saharan Africa will contribute 145 million.
The developing world is where so much of the population will grow between now and 2050. (The United Nations predicts Nigeria will be larger than the United States before that date.)
Those places will be more connected, too, but not like the developed world, with its still developing online video business. And we haven't even started talking about Google Glass yet.