The Great Network Inflection Point Is Just Ahead

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The Great Network Inflection Point Is Just Ahead

Since 2003, the Trends editors have been talking about the "build-out phase of the information revolution." Beginning in 2002, companies reworked the leftovers from the "tech wreck" into successful enterprises.

New technology is now enabling us to pump more data through the same fibers, giving us exponential performance increases at very little cost. Wireless access to the Internet is available just about everywhere in the developed and developing worlds. Moore's Law and nanotechnology are enabling persistent price-performance improvements.

This relentless technical progress is moving us ever closer to an enormously important inflection point, when 3 billion people will be online. That's half of the world's population. Analyst Tom Hayes refers to this as the Jump Point,1 which is the title of his insightful new book.

Global adoption of the Internet is accelerating at a blistering pace. The Internet — beginning as ARPANET — first emerged in 1968, and it took 33 years for one billion people to get connected by 2001.

Six years later, the second billion were already online, a rate of adoption five and a half times faster than the first billion. The third billion will take even less time — about four years — to get plugged in. And when they do, in 2011, they will represent the largest network for the creation of wealth that has ever existed on Earth.

Four factors are behind this acceleration:

  • First, people have become not just comfortable with the new technology but dependent on it. Imagine what would happen to your business if the Internet and e-mail were unavailable for a week. Or even a day.
  • Second, the infrastructure of the Internet is being built out rapidly. Trillions of dollars have been spent on satellites and fiber optics, while 80 percent of the globe is now covered by wireless network connections. This makes it technically possible for adoption to accelerate.
  • Third, technologies are converging. Cell phones, for example, are now much more than phones, embodying imaging technology, personal digital assistants, and even laptop functions such as Web browsing and e-mail.
  • Fourth, computing technology keeps getting cheaper...

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