There are some email figures which tell us some interesting things about convergence. The company CampaignMonitor keep data on around 300 million Internet users who use email. Here’s their recent results displayed as a trend. There are three caveats to be made about the data: the first is that it represents activity when a user reads an email, not when an email is sent; the second is that the technology they use for tracking underestimates the email clients Gmail and Microsoft Outlook; and, third, the figures combine both home and industrial use. However, as a trend I would regard it as both reliable and illuminating.
At first sight what seems to be happening is a migration away from desktop packages to mobile computing with a small decline in web-based email. This reflects the explosive growth in the purchase and use of smart phones such as the iPhone and its Android competitors and the increasing use of tablet computers such as the iPad and its Android competitors . A number of commentators have pointed out that this means a decline in web-based email. What they forget is that smartphone and tablet users almost invariably tie their phones and tablets to some web-based email service (mine is tied into Gmail) and that the graph in the Campaign Monitor report only shows email reads. If smartphone users are anything like me then they will be reading emails using the web, answering urgent ones on reading and sending most emails at home (I find using the text creation facilities of my smartphone somewhat awkward).
So what is the history of home-use email?
- Initially home user email was dominated by desktop packages such as Microsoft Outlook Express (a sort of light version of the heavy-duty Microsoft Outlook).
- There was then a major growth in web use which coincided with the disengagement of Microsoft from its Outlook Express offering that had become, far and away, the most popular way of accessing emails. There were a number of offerings of web-based email services including the most popular: Microsoft’s Hotmail.
- Web email dominated home email until 2009 when mobiles kicked in and started changing the figures. As can be seen with Campaign Monitor graphic the effect was dramatic.
Here are my predictions: that package-based email will stay static. This mainly represents industrial and commercial use of Microsoft Outlook, an excellent heavy duty software offering that is suited to the volume use that it gets in these environments. Second we will see a shift from direct web access to indirect use of web email using operating systems such as iOS(the iPhone and iPad system) and the Android system as a consequence of an increase in the use of social sites and an increase in smartphone and tablet purchases; but this will still use the popular web-based systems, albeit indirectly. One wildcard in the future might be the fact that the hugely popular social networking site Facebook has now added email to its list of facilities.
Disclosure: I use Gmail for home use, I employ Microsoft Outlook at work.