The Digital Deluge: It’s Personal

Jeremy Reimer at Ars Technica writes about 35 years of personal digital devices, from the advent of PCs to smartphones and tablets. More and more devices in our hands translate into more and more digital bits created and shared every day.

What’s most interesting is that the new and smaller personal digital devices have not replaced PCs, at least so far: “The truth of the matter is that the PC isn’t going away anytime soon. Sales figures show that the market may have flattened out somewhat, but it is still growing: 353 million PCs were sold in 2011. That’s a massive figure despite a global recession, and it’s the highest it has ever been.”

The adoption of smartphones and tablets, however, has been much faster than the adoption of PCs (see graph below where “computers” should read “PCs”). A comment on the Art Tecnica article attributes this faster pace to the fact that smartphones and tablets are “an extension of what people are already used to. It’s the same thing only smaller. So there is a basic understanding of their purpose.” True. But I would argue that the existence of the Word Wide Web at the time of the invention of smartphones and tablets is the key driver of this faster adoption. It provided a ready platform for all the applications that have made these smaller devices so appealing. The World Wide Web has also made it easy to create, consume, and share digital bits with these devices. This is why we have a data deluge that will continue to accelerate.