It seems that for the past decade, we’ve all been told that the mobile internet is going to be “big” and will eventually eclipse the “desktop-oriented” internet that most of us are still most familiar with.


Thus far, despite the “hype,” the mobile internet hasn’t developed nearly as quickly on a global scale as many predicted. But is that finally changing? Could 2009 be the year that the mobile internet really takes hold and becomes something that online publishers can’t ignore?

I think it just might be and here’s why:

  • Mobile penetration is significant.
    It hit 50% globally late last year and is still growing. According to a report released by Informa Telecoms and Media, 30 countries passed the 100% mark in Q1 2008. Some, such as the UK, Sweden and Italy, have already exceeded 110% according to the same report. Thus, on a global scale, it’s quite safe to say that mobile critical mass has been reached.
  • The technology has advanced. From 3G networks to more advanced handsets to better development platforms, it appears that the technology required for a robust mobile internet is finally in place – even in countries that have been slower to develop, such as the United States.
  • Smartphone usage amongst consumers has risen dramatically. Thanks to the popularity of the iPhone as well as the recent strong uptake of the RIM Storm and Google G1, more and more consumers now have feature-rich phones that provide for a much more appealing mobile internet user experience.

    Just as consumer uptake of the internet in general led to the internet economy we have today, widespread consumer adoption of the mobile internet is what will drive the market’s development.

  • Mobile internet usage is growing. All of these things are evidenced by the numbers. According to Nielsen Online, 7.3mn people accessed the internet from their mobile phone in the UK in Q2 and Q3 2008. While that may not seem like a huge number, the growth rate of 25% is impressive and beats the growth rate of PC-based internet users, which was 3%, quite handily.

So what does all of this mean for you?

It means that even if you’ve been skeptical about mobile, we seem to be reaching an inflection point where it’s hard to not to take it seriously. Now is a good time to be thinking about a mobile strategy.

Whether your strategy entails making sure that your website can be viewed properly on mobile devices or whether your strategy entails more involved and dedicated mobile initiatives, by putting a mobile strategy in place now, you can help ensure that your online business is prepared to take advantage of the growth opportunities that the ripening mobile internet seems set to offer over the next several years.

I often joke with my friends that if we had taken advantage of more of the opportunities the internet was creating in the late 1990s that we were initially skeptical about, a few of us might have become billionaires.

While that’s almost certainly an exaggeration, I do think that online publishers and internet entrepreneurs who look at the mobile internet with some skepticism would be wise to consider that it just might offer the same sort of potential seen when the internet we know today was first starting to come into focus.