The fact that us Brits are smartphone addicts is no secret. Everywhere you look we’re face down in our smartphones, enjoying their shiny screens, svelte curves and the world of content contained within.
But an interesting development is that we love our smartphones so much that data from Ofcom has shown that the smartphone is the most common way for the majority of UK residents to get online, replacing the laptop as our most popular platform (see chart below).
This is a milestone moment and something that should make businesses with any public-facing web presence sit up and take notice: mobile is where it’s at. And this is definitely something Microsoft should be concerned about.
Microsoft's mobile mistakes
Microsoft has all but acknowledged that it's out of the race in the mobile world. The company wrote off its Nokia acquisition at a loss of some $10bn and CEO Satya Nadella admitted that the firm “doesn’t have good devices”.
Of course, Windows 10 Mobile is coming but, given the dominance Apple and Android enjoy in the mobile market, it’s unlikely that Microsoft’s situation is going to change anytime soon. Indeed, Windows 10 Mobile isn’t even out yet.
But, in Microsoft’s more traditional environment of laptops and PCs, the desktop version of Windows 10 has arrived.
The OS hit the market just over a week ago. It has been downloaded millions of times and garnered mostly positive reviews (ignoring the privacy headaches).
I’m one of those millions and I too was pleased enough with the features, and spent a good 30 minutes or so playing around with the new services on offer.
Then I switched off my laptop and went back to using my iPhone for the rest of the evening. During that time I ordered something from Amazon, checked my bank balance, went on Twitter, used the BBC Sport app, then Facebook, back to Twitter and … well, you get the idea.
All these activities were something that in the past I would have done on the laptop, but now, thanks to smartphones, I can do more easily and more conveniently on my phone. Plus, if I’m out and about, 4G makes all this just as possible.
Really my laptop is only ever used for writing long emails and working from home. So, yes, it gets used, but it’s my secondary device, and by some distance.
Microsoft is hoping that Windows 10 will make us fall in love with our laptops again, and its advertising campaign for the launch has focused on children, and the idea that they will grow up with Windows 10 baked into their digital lives, creating another generation enslaved to Windows.
However, the data from Ofcom suggests that this isn’t necessarily going to happen. One interesting graph in the 433-page report asks the question: Which device would you miss the most?
What's startling is not just that the 16-24 age group love their phone over all other devices, but that so do the 25-34 and 35-44 age brackets. This is undoubtedly going to be the same for the next generation, and the one after that.
This is great news for Apple and Android, as they have the devices and the operating systems that are most in demand in a market that is still growing.
Furthermore, Microsoft cannot rely on Windows 10 in the enterprise arena either. Yes, PCs and laptops remain more common here, but there are moves afoot in firms of all shapes and sizes to go mobile, embrace the cloud and let workers choose the devices they want to use - or just shun laptops and PCs altogether.
Furthermore, Apple is increasingly growing its presence in enterprises. Only this week IBM announced new tools to help companies roll out MacBooks on their networks, underlining just how much the traditional enterprise landscape is shifting, not just with mobiles but in the laptop space where Microsoft had dominated.
It seems clear that the mobile revolution has passed Microsoft by and Windows 10 could well become just another operating system, rather than the operating system, in the consumer and corporate worlds.
IoT to the rescue?
But, as I covered last week, the next computing generation is on the cusp of becoming mainstream: the Internet of Things (IoT).
This is an area where Microsoft is hoping that Windows 10 IoT will come into its own and help it have a fair crack against Apple and Android.
However, it would be a brave person to put any sizeable money on Microsoft rising to glory in this space, given what has happened in the mobile world. And who would have thought that 20 years ago?
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