Shocking news: People do lots on their smartphones

What is blindingly obvious to many is still something new to many others, reflecting the reality of how change happens

Shocking news: People do lots on their smartphones

Maybe it's the absence of real mobile news lately, but I've seen a crush of "studies" that show people use their mobile devices to do Web searches, bank, make restaurant reservations, watch videos, and buy tickets to events -- to buy all sorts of goods and service, in fact. Some people even use their smartphones as credit cards and transit passes!

Who knew??

Seriously, this is "duh" news. It's why Intel had to lay off 12,000 people this year. PC sales have plummeted over the last five or so years as people use them less and mobile devices more -- and Intel 10 years ago bet that wouldn't be true.

Except in some quarters, the realization that people have made mobile devices -- particularly smartphones -- their key computing device is exactly that: a realization. The unkind me guesses the fact that nearly every adult -- and many children -- carries one hasn't registered. Or that you see them in use everywhere you go: standing in line, sitting in a bus or car, dining in a restaurant, watching TV on the couch.

Worse, many organizations have yet to make that realization. For example, I still see Flash components on websites at banks, airlines, and telecommunications providers -- which of course don't work on any mobile devices. And I still see many sites -- government, business, even commerce -- that don't have responsive design to automatically reformat themselves for smartphone and tablet screens.

Nine years after the iPhone's and Android's debuts and six years after the iPad's debut, you'd think that developers and IT organizations would have seen the light. But many haven't made that realization -- or perhaps don't have the resources and commitment to act on it.

But the kind me remembers that change takes time, even "fast" change like the rise of the iPhone and the displacement of the BlackBerry, a seven-year event that is slow by individual revoking but fast in terms of systemic change.

Internet adoption proceeded along the same pace, as did email adoption. The rate of PC adoption was a little slower, though not much. Cloud computing has moved at a slower tick, taking more than a decade to get real momentum started (recall that the first big cloud vendor,, launched its "No Software" campaign in late 1999). Only in the last few years has cloud computing become an accepted IT state, even if it's still a future state for many.

Like cloud technology, mobile technology remains unevenly distributed in the real world. And "duh" surveys on mobile's widespread adoption by people are unfortunately still needed to convince IT organizations, technology providers, and public-facing businesses to get serious about mobile devices.

That's why Apple and IBM have spent so much effort to create enterprise-class mobile apps for the iPad and iPhone -- and why you don't see similar high-profile efforts by others, though enterprise software vendors increasingly offer mobile-savvy apps and websites. There's still a strong prejudice against such devices in many organizations, where IT considers them to be fads or toys, or grudgingly acceptable only for email use. (Never mind that IT favorite Microsoft is now all-in on mobile.)

Even mobile management vendors still struggle to gain broad adoption -- stuck at about 20 percent of enterprises -- despite the IT paranoia about all things security.

Years ago, when I worked at the IEEE Computer Society as an impatient youth, software engineering guru Tom DeMarco told me that change in academia and research moved at a generational pace -- the old generation had to retire or die for the new generation's ideas to gain acceptance. Since the PC era began in the 1980s, technology adoption has not been quite that slow, but it is still easily a decade-or-longer process.

By that measure, mobile adoption is proceeding apace -- on average, that is. As the old saw says, the future is already here, but unevenly distributed. That's clearly where mobile adoption stands today, whether we like or not.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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