The technology elite is not the norm


As someone who closely watches technology, it's oh so easy to get jaded and to think that what's normal to me is ordinary to most people in the world, but the fact is that I'm part of the technology elite, and I'm more the exception than the rule.

Take smart phones for example. We who carry our smart phones with us and can't imagine life without them might think that everyone feels this way, but guess what, you and your friends are the isolated case here. In fact, Royal Pingdom reported last month that while there were 5.9 billion (yes, that's billion) mobile subscribers worldwide, just 13 percent were smart phones.

According to Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.8 billion people in the world, and while it's entirely likely that there aren't close to 6 billion mobile phone users, the numbers are informative. There are a ton of phones out there, but in spite of the wild success of Android and iOS, smart phones remain just a smidgen of the worldwide market.

A recent Pew study found that 35 percent of Americans had a smart phones, so if you bring it closer to home (at least for me), we have a third of users carrying smart phones. That means that 2 out of three people aren't carrying them.

How about email? If you follow content management, you probably are firmly convinced it's dead, but it's not even close. In fact, it's doing quite well, and as more people carry more mobile devices including smart phones and tablets, that's just as likely to increase as not.

In its latest numbers from last year, Royal Pingdom actually found that 107 trillion emails were sent in 2010. That was up from 90 trillion in 2009. Of course, almost 90 percent were spam, but even when subtracting for the menace that is junk email, that's a lot of communication going on by email.

If that's not enough for you, consider that Sara Radicati of The Radicati Group predicted continued growth for email, in a May 20011 report called Email Statistics Report, 2011-2015. "The number of worldwide email accounts is expected to increase from an installed base of 3.1 billion in 2011 to nearly 4.1 billion by year-end 2015. This represents an average annual growth rate of 7 percent over the next four years," Radicati wrote.

And for those of you who believe Enterprise 2.0 collaboration tools will supplant email, the evidence just isn't there to support that notion yet, no matter how much sense it makes.

Most of us who follow content and content management issues are probably among the technical elite. We talk to each other. We read each other's content. We go to conferences together and listen to one another's presentations. We live inside a technology bubble, but it's important to understand that most people live in another world entirely.

And it's those people you have to keep in mind as you look ahead. You can't continue to make assumptions about the world based on how you use technology. You have to look at the masses of people outside the technology elite and find ways to communicate with them on their level with their tools, the way they use technology--or you risk making a huge strategic blunder. - Ron