October 23, 2008 00:01 ET

IBM Study Finds Consumers Prefer a Mobile Device Over the PC

ARMONK, NY--(Marketwire - October 23, 2008) - IBM (NYSE: IBM) today released new survey results which reveal that over 50 percent of consumers would substitute their Internet usage on a PC for a mobile device. Expanding on the May 2008 "Go Mobile, Grow" study produced by IBM's Institute for Business Value, the survey identifies new findings that validate previous conclusions on how consumers will be open to full adoption of the mobile device as the hub for Internet activity.

IBM surveyed 600 consumers in the United States, China and the United Kingdom on their preferences regarding the mobile Internet. The survey found that communication, travel and navigation applications, as well as news and information services, are expected to increase significantly in popularity and usage over the mobile Internet. With the world's population of mobile-phone users expected to increase from the current 50 percent to 80 percent in 2013, which translates to a staggering 5.8 billion people(1), the availability of IP wireless broadband and more affordable devices will change the way companies around the world operate and relate to their customers, employees and partners.

"Worldwide adoption of the mobile phone as the preferred device for accessing the Internet is just around the corner," said Dr. Sungyoul Lee, Global Consulting Leader, Electronics Industry, IBM. "With 70 percent of consumers worldwide who believe that the mobile Internet has the potential to add significant to moderate value to their day-to-day lives, the time is now for companies to develop intuitive applications and services that allow people of all ages to effortlessly access and use the Internet while on the go -- anytime, and anywhere."

Internet Adoption

By 2011, 39 percent of respondents said they expect to increase Internet use on their mobile device by at least 40 percent. The Chinese consumers polled lead the world as the fastest adopting society of the mobile web. This finding is in synch with IBM's previous hypothesis that within emerging and leading edge markets, the mobile platform will be the primary way of interacting with businesses and institutions. These countries have in many cases leapfrogged the PC era and are routinely using their mobile devices for a variety of consumer services.

Desired Content

71 percent of respondents acknowledged that they expect to increase their usage of communication services such as obtaining maps and directions, instant messaging, social networking, emailing and reading the news from their mobile device. Growth markets like China and India are leading this adoption at a rapid pace and are proving to be the most open towards mobile internet than the mature markets. The survey found that consumers still prefer to execute services such as banking, stock trading, shopping and general search on the PC rather than a mobile device.

Age Preferences

The mobile Internet is the most popular among Generation X and Generation Y, as they tend to be more technology savvy and have a greater exposure and acceptance of emerging technologies. Over 50 percent of respondents who chose "Strong to Full substitution" of accessing the PC versus a mobile device were 15-30 years old and believe the industry is doing its best to advance the mobile Web, although most are still unsatisfied with the price and services offered by carriers and handset manufacturers.

Brand loyalty

Consumers are most loyal to their preferred brands for communication services such as email and instant messaging, but the survey found a lack of loyalty for entertainment services. Over 50 percent would like to use the same brand on their PC and mobile device when emailing, banking and instant messaging.

Device Features

While there is an overall consensus that the industry is doing its bit for mobile Web, more consumers desire greater affordability, awareness and better content and applications for the mobile Internet. In terms of device features, the survey found consumers prefer a large screen, high resolution, internal memory, and quick speed data transfer as the most important and desired features in their mobile device.

Implications and Recommendations

In order to stimulate and increase mobile Internet adoption, device makers, mobile operators, Internet service providers, mobile application developers and content providers need to consider the following:

  • Define their mobile Internet strategy by understanding consumer behaviors and needs to identify the strategy that best leverages their core strengths.
  • Transform their business model to align with the identified mobile internet strategy: this touches areas such as Research & Development, Marketing & Sales or Services Delivery.
  • Establish and host a reliable, cost-efficient and scalable infrastructure to deliver mobile internet services to consumers.
  • Improve devices in terms of processing power, memory, resolution, screen size and intuitive user interfaces. Specifically device makers need to think about how to integrate technologies such as nano projectors and projected virtual keyboards.
  • Move towards a high adoption of open standards and open source to further grow and nurture the ecosystem.

About IBM and the Mobile Web

The mobile web provides people with access to the Internet anytime and anywhere mobile phone service is available -- at its most basic, it enables you to browse the Internet with a mobile device.

IBM envisions a substantial build-out of the mobile Web and a significant shift in the way the majority of people will interact with the Web over the next 5-10 years. IBM's own business think-tank predicts the Mobile Web market for consumer services such as entertainment and email is expected to reach $80 billion by 2011, more than 36 percent annual growth.

IBM Survey Methodology

The online survey conducted by NetReflector was fielded among a representative sample of 600 adults in USA, China, and the UK in the third quarter of 2008. The results can be considered statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level and have a margin of error of +/- 0.0138 points.


(1) Portio Research

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