The Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2018 report is out, and it points to several new patterns for this year and beyond. In summary:
- China is set to overtake the US both in terms of technology and its consumption
- Cryptocurrency has exploded past anything anyone could have foreseen having quadrupled since January 2017
- Ecommerce is at an all-time high.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is also growing faster than predicted and will continue to grow like wildfire.
The report kicks off by summarizing internet adoption, which is now at around half the world’s population, or 3.6 billion people. The average adult spends approximately 6 hours per day using a digital device, these numbers being driven largely by cheaper Android phones and increasing availability of Wi-Fi in public spaces. Indeed there are now around 450 million Wi-Fi networks in the world, compared to approximately 100 million networks five years ago.
In terms of areas of the report that most impact enterprises, the following are all to the fore.
1. AI in the enterprise: on the rise
Meeker gave AI a good deal of love in this year’s report, mentioning major players in the AI space and also referencing the growing competition and innovation emerging from China, which is “organized and gaining”, and citing former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s comment that “China and the United States could be equal in AI prowess within the next five years”. The report also references a Morgan Stanley CIO survey that predicts AI will see one of the biggest increases in IT spending in 2018, and that 48 percent of CIOs are installing or testing AI and machine learning systems this year, up from 33 percent in April 2017.
2. Software: all about the end-user experience
Enterprise software development receives an interesting focus in Meeker’s report, highlighting the impact consumer apps have had on the development of enterprise software, with end-user experience at its center. Meeker cites Dropbox and Slack as two examples of widely used apps that cross the consumer-enterprise line, Dropbox starting as a consumer app that grew in appeal to business users, Slack a business platform designed to look and feel a lot like a popular consumer app.
3. The digital age is finally here
Many technological innovations took their time from concept to becoming mainstream in the consumer world – the internet managed it in a decade. Meeker’s report focuses on the rapid evolution of digital technology and its profound impact on the enterprise in such a relatively short space of time: for example large-scale data gathering and optimization projects began life under mainframe computer adoption in the 1950s and have exploded since thanks to cloud – exponentially-increasing computing power at ever lower costs - and consumer mobile usage creating massive data from billions of connected users.
In maturity terms, public cloud and smartphones, both effectively “being born” in 2006, are still barely into puberty. But their effect on what we do and how we live and work is now phenomenal.
4. Data central to customer satisfaction
Progressive enterprises now acknowledge that collecting and optimizing the massive amounts of user data available can drive greater levels of customer satisfaction. Among the companies that achieve the highest ratings for customer satisfaction are data-powered companies like Amazon, Google and Netflix according to ACSI. The message is that personalization drives customer satisfaction and that in the data era customers and prospects are perfectly comfortable with their data being used to enhance their experience.
5. Data privacy comes to the fore
While data is essential to creating better customer experiences, it does come with challenges. Meeker refers to the “privacy paradox”, whereby companies must address these data challenges in order to generate increased spending, greater loyalty and bigger revenues. There is a balancing act to strike between sharing and collecting data, what the definition of “privacy” presently might be, and what individuals themselves are willing to give up in exchange for all the products, apps and services we consume.
Meeker’s report summarizes the data issue today as “Internet companies are making low-price services better in part from user data. Internet users are increasing their time on internet services based on perceived value. Regulators want to ensure data is not used improperly, and not all regulators think about this in the same way.”
6. Enterprise messaging apps on the rise
Meeker’s report gives room to the growing role that messaging and collaboration apps including the likes of Slack and Zoom are now playing in enterprise organizations. These collaborative tools are now much more than “just” messaging apps, and have evolved to become significant bases of organizational knowledge and data. They have helped significantly cut down on time and resources expended on email and meetings. They are likely to continue to grow in use and importance.
7. The security imperative
Security naturally warrants a mention, which will surprise nobody. The rate of digital transformation and speed of growth of technology rarely outstrips the efforts of those who would undermine and attack it. Malware, ransomware and other threats that leverage legitimate technologies such as cloud services are all on the rise as malicious actors seek to steal or destroy your data.
I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.