Mobile Internet: a story of stagnation

Stagnating usage of the mobile Internet is an embarrassment for the mobile phone industry--one that could open the doors to outside challengers.

Someday the mobile Internet will be huge. No kidding. But the numbers coming out are relentlessly grim. Since January, according to M:Metrics, Inc. of Seattle, the number of Americans using a mobile browser for news and other information appears to be falling.
The numbers:

January -- 22,052,550 0
February-- 22,628,052 2.6%
March -- 21,533,717 -4.8%
April -- 22,109,802 2.7%
May -- 21,641,574 -2.1%

What can we gather from this? The mobile industry, which has been breathlessly awaiting revenue growth from mobile data, has utterly failed to provide Internet handsets and services worth our time and money. Significantly, the one area of growth--wireless email--developed largely on services and handsets that came from outside the phone industry, from Research in Motion's Blackberrys and PalmOne's Treo.

What does the phone industry's failure mean? Perhaps it spells an opportunity for outsiders, like the Sky Dayton-headed joint venture SK-Earthlink. Somebody is going to figure out the wireless Internet. Given the phone industry's record over the past six years, I'd bet on outsiders.

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