As if any more evidence were needed that the mobile internet is the next big thing, research firm comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) today reported that web-based email usage is declining while mobile email usage is skyrocketing. The shift doesn’t matter much to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), but it does put a bit of air under Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) at the same time that it imperils some crusty veterans of the last century’s email wars, such as Yahoo Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO), AOL, Inc. (NYSE: AOL), and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT).
Web-based email traffic declined by -6% in November 2010, compared with the November 2009, and total page views fell by -15%. That is a big drop, but as comScore points out, web-based email reaches more than 70% of the US online population each month.
It should also be no surprise that younger email users are deserting web-based email much more quickly than older users. The youngest users, 12 to 17 years old, viewed -53% fewer pages than they did a year ago and represented a decline of -24% in unique visitors. Older users, aged 55 and up posted more unique visitors and more page views. Even those 18 to24 years old, who showed a gain of 9% in unique visitors, registered a -14% drop in pages viewed.
Mobile email usage has reached 78% of US smartphone owners. Companies with mobile email programs that serve ads as well as email messages should prosper as the number of smartphone owners grows and these new users begin reading email on their new mobile phones.
That is good news for Google and Apple, but not such good news for Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft’s MSN, none of which offers a unique mobile email program. Web-based email is not going to disappear any time soon, but it’s not going to grow either. And its arguable whether or not search will be as heavily used on mobile devices, most of which offer connections to a user’s social network and to thousands of apps that can connect a user to information that could once be obtained only by laborious searching.
The boom in mobile email use among the youngest users guarantees that as time passes each of the older cohorts will also see an increase in mobile usage. The youngest generation won’t be tied to their chairs or couches or desks. Those of us who are, shall we say, more mature, are simply fossils-in-waiting.
What does it tell you about the future of the PC business?