We've heard a lot about the "post-PC" world ever since Steve Jobs heralded its arrival with the launch of the iPad 2 in March 2011. As Rachel Pasqua and I note in our forthcoming book, Mobile Marketing: An Hour a Day, Jobs’ proclamation, coming from the leader of a computer manufacturer, was alternately bold and precarious, signaling as it did that the future lies in portable computing devices like smartphones and tablets. Or maybe it was just recognition of the writing on the wall.
Whatever your viewpoint, there is little denying the evidence. Apple's mobile devices now handily outsell its computers and the disparity between smart device and PC shipments continues to accelerate on a global basis. In 2011, smartphone shipments surpassed those of PCs by a large margin; by 2016, smart devices (phones and tablets combined) will be out-shipping PCs by more than 2 to 1, according to a March 2012 forecast from the International Data Corporation.
The net result is that mobile is clearly emerging as the new desktop. In a recent report I wrote for eMarketer (excerpted here), I cited this trend as one of the key shifts in a rapidly changing digital landscape. But the phenomenon goes deeper than the device level. As Rachel and I observe in our book, the forces pushing consumers away from PCs to portable computing devices like smartphones and tablets are ushering in a phase in which activities such as accessing the Web and social networking and the platforms consumers use to undertake these activities will take precedence over the devices they use to do so.
The ascension of smart devices does not mean the imminent death knell of the PC as we know it, but it is a harbinger of the changing nature of communication—not just the devices we use to communicate, but also the ways in which we use them. Digitas' Chia Chen put it well in an interview with Mobile Marketer: "In the case of mobile," he said, "companies need to understand that it’s more than just a technology shift, it is also a significant change in how people connect with each other and consumer content."
The bottom line: As consumers shift their time and attention from PC desktops and traditional media to smartphones and tablets, getting mobilized is less and less a question to consider and more of an imperative. And a key part of that imperative is figuring out not just how to make the most of mobile but also how mobile can work in unison with other channels, from traditional to digital. These are themes that I and others will be exploring as part of the Rutgers Center for Management Development’s Mini-MBA in mobile marketing.