iPads Help Make Tablets Fastest Spreading Technology Ever
A technology blogger gathered data on technologies in the U.S. and found Americans are adopting new gadgets faster than ever. Tablet use has grown the fastest yet.
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It took Alexander Graham Bell's telephone nearly 40 years to reach more than 10 percent of people in the U.S., but it took smartphones fewer than five years to do the same. And tablets are on track to rise in the U.S. market even faster than smartphones.
Many people have heard of Moore's Law, which describes how computing power doubles every two years. Here's a kind of Moore's Law for tech adoption, which technology blogger Michael Degusta, writing for MIT's Technology Review, found by gathering and crunching data from a United Nations technology agency, the New York Times and other sources.
Degusta gathered data about nine different technologies' popularity in the U.S. since 1876, when Bell patented the telephone. Degusta found the telephone and electricity were slow to gain traction in the U.S., mature as a technology and finally saturate the market, which means demand for the technology finally drops off after steadily rising. The two technologies took at least 15 years, and sometimes much more than that, to reach each stage in its lifecycle.
Meanwhile, radios, cellphones and the Internet rose at moderate speeds, taking between five years and 12 years to reach each tech life stage.
Smartphones, after taking about eight years to reach 10 percent of the U.S., landed in 10 percent to 40 percent of Americans' hands – which Degusta calls "maturity" – in less than three years. "Are smart phones spreading faster than any technology in human history?" Degusta asked in the headline of his analysis. Only televisions' growth in the early 1950s matched smartphones' increase now. He expects smartphone use to continue to grow rapidly in developing countries, where cellphones were also much more quickly adopted compared to other technologies.
What's next? Apple's iPad brought a boom to the tablet market. Eleven percent of Americans owned a tablet within a year and a half of the iPad's release. Tablets' initial rise has been much swifter than any of the technologies Degusta analyzed. They haven't reached maturity yet, however, and Degusta writes their track record "remains to be seen."
But as people take to smartphones and tablets, he concludes, perhaps the era of the traditional personal computer is drawing to a close. Maybe it also means that once they hit the market, all that we write about here – from computerized clothes to doorknobs that recognize homeowners' touch – will show up in people's homes faster than they may think.