Hardware

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Screen time

Will the smaller screen take over - just as the PC eclipsed TV?

Compiled on the Ipswich to London train, among a sea of various sized screens, and later dispatched to silicon.com from a free wi-fi site at Liverpool Street Station.

For about a decade now I have been asking audiences about the number of screens they own, and how much time they spend on each. At first it was all dominated by TV, which had crept into every room in the house. But then it was the PC and laptop that took over, and lately the mobile phone and PDA.

My questions are as follows:

How many of you…

  1. Have more PCs than TVs?
  2. Spend more time on a PC than a TV?
  3. Have two, three, four or more mobile devices?
  4. Spend more time on mobile devices than PCs?
  5. Watch TV and use a laptop or mobile/PDA at the same time?

Over time I have seen a migration of habits and I have kept a 'crude account' as represented in the graph below. Please note this is not a scientifically accurate or even a significant statistical sample of a population but it does give an indication of what my audiences have been doing and how their habits have changed.


Source: Peter Cochrane

The big question in my mind is: will the little screen take over our attention in the same way the PC eclipsed TV?

My guess is we are entering a new hybrid phase where screens and their respective sizes become incidental, as does the content and the format. We already slip from one screen to the other as our needs dictate, without even noticing or considering content or format. The screen is just a place we go to do and see things.

What evidence is there to support such a hypothesis? We already see many people operating sans TV, with all programme material now available on the PC screen. And the big plasma and LCD screens are now being diverted into mainstream PC monitor use. Add to this the games consoles and synchronisation of PCs with mobiles that look more and more like mini-PCs, and all the elements are in place.

The industry loves to debate whether mobile devices have taken over, whether TVs are becoming PCs and many other issues surrounding device usage. But it looks to me as though it has already happened and it really is no big deal. Screens big and small are used for whatever users decide. We have been here before!

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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