Why the Golden Age of Mobile and Online Advertising Is Upon Us

Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker, head of the firm’s global technology research team, says the mobile market is growing at a phenomenal rate, that online advertising could finally be entering its “golden age” and that online commerce is also slated to take off, thanks in large part to the growth of mobile. Meeker, one of the most prominent brokerage analysts during the early days of the consumer web in the late 1990s, made the projections during a presentation at the Conversational Marketing Summit in New York today. She also said that the level of innovation in the technology sector was currently one of “unprecedented intensity,” both from incumbents and newcomers. The full presentation, which is available on SlideShare, is embedded below.

Meeker said that smartphone shipments will soon exceed those of PCs shipped (both desktops and notebooks), likely in 2012, in what she called an “inflection point” for mobile advertising and e-commerce. Smartphone shipments should also overtake the number of regular (in other words, not Internet-enabled) handsets shipped sometime next year, she said. Meanwhile, use of mobile apps and mobile browsers has doubled in the past year, she noted, adding that the U.S. passed Japan as the country with the most 3G users last year, with more than 123 million to Japan’s 99 million.

The biggest sign of a potential boom in online advertising, according to the Morgan Stanley analyst, is the gap between the time users spend with various forms of media and the amount of money advertisers are devoting them, which she said was still “out of whack.” In particular, time spent with print makes up just 12 percent of users’ media consumption habits, but consumes 26 percent of the ad dollars; Internet usage, meanwhile, accounts for 28 percent of media consumption but just 13 percent of the advertising dollars spent. That, Meeker said, is “a $50 billion opportunity.”

Meeker also said that the Apple (s aapl) iPad was “one of the fastest-growing new consumer computing devices ever” — taking just 28 days to sell a million units, something that took the iPhone more than twice as long (the only two things to hit one million faster were the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS (s ntdoy), both of which launched during the Christmas shopping season). Apple iPad Internet usage is more like that of a desktop PC than a smartphone, Meeker said, in terms of monthly page views per device.

The analyst also said that there is now an “unusually high level of innovation from incumbents” such as Apple, Google (S GOOG) and Amazon (S AMZN), as well as Nintendo, Microsoft (S MSFT) and PayPal (S EBAY), but also said that the technology sector is seeing a high level of innovation from “new attackers” as well, including Facebook, Skype, Zynga and Twitter. And when it comes to cloud computing, Meeker said consumers are ahead of businesses in their adoption of the cloud, which has a number of implications (for more discussion of the cloud and its impact, come to GigaOM’s Structure conference in June), among them:

  • -the quality of home-based computing has been evolving at a faster pace than enterprise computing for years, and cloud-based connectivity has become so pervasive that enterprises are finally being forced to play catch up.
  • -wireless device (smartphone/tablet) adoption has encouraged consumers to expect (and demand) cloud-based high-speed wireless connectivity at all times.
  • -recession-related technology spending delays allowed cloud-based services to evolve/develop to levels that are more ‘enterprise-ready.’
  • -cloud-based security concerns have abated somewhat as enterprises realize the difference in risk profile between internal and external environments is lower than they once believed.

Meeker also reiterated points made in a similar presentation at Google in April, including the fact that mobile Internet usage is ramping faster than desktop Internet usage did, with Apple “leading the charge,” and that media consumption is becoming much more social, with social networking activity surpassing email.

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