Wireless devices will be the primary means of connecting to the Internet for most people worldwide in 2020, predicts a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
“The Future of the Internet III” study, surveying nearly 600 Internet experts about the role of technology in the year 2020, suggested that the combination of portability and relative affordability will turn the cell phone into the leading Internet gateway 12 years from now.
There will be about 4 billion cell phones worldwide by the end of 2008, with up to 15 percent that are Internet-enabled, according to figures from market database Wireless Intelligence cited in the Pew report. About 1.6 billion people currently use the Web.
The ascendance of the mobile phone will be aided by a set of universal standards allowing cell users to maintain consistent service across different parts of the globe.
“By 2020, we’ll have standard network connections around the world ... Billions of people will have joined the Internet who don’t speak English. They won’t think of these things as ‘phones’ either — these devices will be simply lenses on the online world,” said Susan Crawford, founder of OneWebDay and an Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board member, within the report.
The trend of handheld computers has already begun with smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry, but it is still mostly limited to business users or other affluent consumers. Sports viewing is currently a major category of mobile technology usage.
Among other key findings from the Pew study, voice-recognition technology and touch screens for the Internet will be more prevalent by 2020. The study also predicts that the divide between personal and work time and physical and virtual reality will be further erased, with mixed results for social relations.