RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — What's the state of the Internet? It's growing slowly, but still outpacing the smartphone market.
So says Mary Meeker, the former Internet analyst-turned-venture capitalist who has been the Nostradamus of online research for years. Her highly anticipated annual Internet status update, a staple at industry conferences, offers insight into major mega-trends for the tech industry.
On Wednesday, she was at it again. At the Code Conference here, she said Internet use is at 3 billion people worldwide (42% penetration), with China and India — countries coveted by Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others — leading the way.
But the device of the moment isn't iPhone anymore. Its sales peaked in 2015, she reports, and the action has moved to the voice-activated Amazon Echo speaker, "which is just getting started," she said. Meeker is bullish on messaging (she called it "secret sauce") and ride-sharing services ("We may be entering an automotive golden age") but souring on online search.
In a 213-slide presentation, she said she expects global smartphone user growth to slow to 21% year-over-year from 31%, and shipments to cool dramatically, to 10% from 28%. Internet growth, meanwhile, is a victim of saturation in developed countries.
Worldwide smartphone unit shipments slipped 3%, to 335 million, in the first three months of 2016, the first such year-over-year decline, according to Strategy Analytics, which tracks smartphone sales.
Apple is feeling the pinch. The first-ever year-over-year decline in iPhone sales during Apple's fiscal second quarter was a major reason for the first drop in Apple sales in more than a decade and lowered expectations for the current quarter.
Worldwide, Android is far and away the dominant mobile operating system. It has 81% market share to 16% for Apple iOS, and three times the audience size of Apple.
Meeker, a venture capitalist at VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has been involved in investments in tech firms such as SoundCloud, LegalZoom, Spotify, Twitter, Instacart and NextDoor. She sits on the boards of Square and DocuSign.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk doesn't see Google as a potential competitor to his firm. Instead, he's focused on Apple.
Apple, maker of the iconic iPhone and Macintosh computers, "will be a direct competitor," Musk said. He expects Apple to be in production with cars by 2020, but thinks it waited too long. "They should have started production sooner. It's a missed opportunity."
Speaking to the Code Conference here, the South African-born, charismatic CEO leads a company that sells electric cars, with a recent software update that includes partial self-driving features. Tesla cars start at around $80,000, but recently announced a 2017 Model 3 that will start at $35,000. The company has reaped about 400,000 orders for the car that include $1,000 deposits.
Internet giant Google is testing self-driving cars, but Musk doesn't see Google getting into the car business. "Google is not a car company," he said. "They'll license the technology."
Apple, on the other hand, hasn't publicly announced its intentions to get into the car business, but has been hiring engineers, and Musk clearly expects Apple to join the fray.
Musk was asked if the new Model 3 will be a self-driving car. He demurred, saying he would have an event in the fall to reveal the answer. Asked for clarifications, he simply said, "We’re going to do the obvious thing."
Musk, who is also CEO of rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, also talked about his passion of exploring Mars and space.
Missions to Mars will start in 2018, he said, and he predicted that trips for humans ("if things go according to plan") will begin in 2024 -- for arrival in 2025.
Musk, who has not flown into space, has said he wanted to die on Mars, but not on a landing. "If you had to choose a place to die, Mars is probably not a bad choice. Born on Earth, died on Mars."
Read Article (Graham &Swartz | usatoday.com | 06/01/2016)
To be sure, smartphones almost always get better with each new model introduction, and have beefier specs. Still, it’s worth asking: is better, better enough? While nearly half the population contemplates “choice”, the other half contemplates simply learning to use the thing (Digital Literacy).
This miss-placed step of the Digital Era must be eventually addressed and sooner or later there will be finger-pointing as to just who dropped the ball.
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