Editors' Cuts

No Small Matter

Bill Kenealy
Insurance Experts' Forum, February 11, 2011

Sometimes statistics do not tell the entire story.

This seems to be the case with a research report from IDC released this week, which indicated for the first time ever, smartphones are outselling personal computers. In the last three months of 2010, consumer electronics makers shipped 100.9 million smartphones while computers makers sold 92.1million units.

Year over year, smartphones sales surged 74% as 302.6 million were sold in 2010 compared with 173.5 million smartphones shipped in 2009. At first read, these numbers are staggering, but they do not indicate that the growth in smartphones have necessarily come at the computers expense.

To be sure, despite the fact that they are used for the same functions, an argument could be made that smartphones and computers belong different product categories altogether. Smartphones are consumer products with some business functionality, while corporations remain the largest purchasers of computers.

Rapidly falling prices also are an issue, as a few phones running Google's Android operating system can now be had for as little as $100. What's more, the upgrade cycles for products are entirely different. A two-year smartphone is widely regarded as senescent, while I wouldn't have to leave the very desk I'm sitting at now to find a five-year old computer that still functions ably.

Kevin Restivo, a senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program, says the rapidly improving nature of the mobile hardware is a primary contributor to upgrade fever and helps explain the the rapid growth in the smart phone market. "Mobile phone users will find compelling reasons to turn in their older models as new ones are launched with dual-core processors and near-field communication chips," Restivo says.

Indeed, while smartphones and tablets are increasingly viable platforms for content consumption, they are ill suited for most content creation tasks. To put it another way, while I find myself increasingly using my own smartphone for basic Web surfing, I have no intention of writing a 2,500-word article using only my thumbs. Despite the ever-improving functionality of Apple's iOS and Android, as a person who writes for a living, you will only pry this physical keyboard from my cold, dead hands.

So what does this the rise of mobile devices portend for insurance technologists? In the short term, plenty of app development for customer-facing business processes, while simultaneously maintaining an x86 architecture-based environment for servers and workers. Longer term, we may see some convergence between the two worlds.

Microsoft's recent announcement that it has acquired a license from Arm Holdings so that the forthcoming Windows 8 is able run on chips made by companies such as Texas Instruments and Qualcomm seems to point in that direction.

While I'm all for interoperability, I really have no desire to parse a spreadsheet on a 4-inch screen.

Bill Kenealy is a senior editor with Insurance Networking News.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Bill by using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at william.kenealy@sourcemedia.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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