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Mass telephony will spawn new services

india Updated: May 15, 2011 21:15 IST
N Madhavan

More than two years ago, I had started this column by describing as the "Law of diminishing digital returns" the phenomenon under which your digital device will seem dumber as they days progress while smarter ones costing less hit the market.

A recent study shows how far this is going to change the world. Gurgaon-based knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) firm Evalueserve says that by 2015, about 70% of the world's handsets, accounting for some 4.8 billion handsets, will have an average price of less than $100 (Rs 4,400), and the annual demand for handsets that year will be about 2.58 billion, with replacements driving 94% of the demand.

By 2015, the share of smartphones will more than double to 30% from 14% in 2010, and replacement markets will account for 94% of the demand, says the study.

But the study notes that basic handsets costing under $30 will also grow sharply, and between the smartphones and the basic handsets, feature phones, which essentially involve Qwerty keyboards, cameras and other frills, will get squeezed.

It is difficult to imagine such a future, but is clear to me that even feature phones will get smarter before they get squeezed. Elsewhere in Hindustan Times, we have a story about how Facebook is adapting itself to appeal to feature phones through software changes.

Whatever the detail, the trend is clearly towards the "massification" of telephony, and by extension, the Internet, because dumber phones are getting Net-savvy, with handset makers, software firms and telecom operators working with each other to make that happen.

Evalueserve estimates that more than 50% of mobile subscribers will be from low and middle income countries while 84% of the new subscribers will be from these economies between 2010 and 2015.

And so, within a decade, pervasive computing and its fallouts would have reached out to the poorer sections of the planet. What fascinates one is a key takeaway: while voice calls will get cheaper, Internet or other data-based services will drive revenues. Expect a profusion of data-based ideas and services. The game, which began with ringtones and SMS votes, has just begun.