While I looked into the ‘monthly average users’ for the big four social media services, I realized there is a major new trend: users are using mobile devices on par with regular desktops. According to a recent publication, Facebook has reached 1 billion monthly active users using mobile devices compared to 1.28 billion overall. And this is also playing out with Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.
The major implication is a good web service must function just as well on a mobile device, it cannot be a secondary afterthought. It is not like building a web service first and then saying “Oh, maybe I should make this mobile friendly.”, but rather, “How can I make a web service that functions on a desktop and mobile devices effectively, where there are little discernible differences in functionality as I go from one to the other?” Another implication is the next generation is being brought up using mobile devices, and could be labeled as ‘mobile natives’ (in a similar fashion Millennials are labeled as ‘digital natives’).
The use of mobile apps is soaring. There are millions of apps offered on Android, Windows 8, and Mac OS platforms. What is great about apps is they do one simple task really well. You can have hundreds of apps, each providing a particular service.
Our next generation will be accustomed to this ‘app way of doing things’. Microsoft realizes this. This is why they changed their operating system, Windows 8, into a hybrid of what they had before with an app interface. They want to have their operating system accessible on all devices, desktop and mobiles. Facebook realizes this too. This is why they acquired Instagram and WhatsApp.
I do not think usage of desktops disappears. Simply put, there are just too many things we do that we prefer a larger screen or more processing power, and if you are at a desk, why not take advantage of it. For example, if you are playing a graphic intensive game, you need a desktop. So the platform we use is dependent on the task we are trying to accomplish and whether a desktop is accessible. That’s why new web services should be built to work on both desktop and mobile devices effectively.
In a New York Times article, the CEO of a content distributor says:
We used to interact with personal computers daily, for two or three hours at a time. With laptops, we started interacting three or four times a day for 20 minutes each. Mobile phones made that into sessions of two minutes, 50 times a day.[i]