Every Phone a Smart Phone by Stephanie N. Mehta @FortuneMagazine September 14, 2009, 1:08 PM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons You probably already own a multimedia phone – you just don’t know it yet. Jacobstein aims to put a smartphone in every pocket. Photo: iSkoot By Mark Jacobstein, CEO, iSkoot If you’ve noticed that smart phones seem to be everywhere, it’s because they are. And if that seemed to happen overnight, it’s because it did. Way back in summer of 2007, less than one in ten of us in the U.S. carried a smart phone – a mobile device with Internet access, e-mail services and other multimedia tools. A year later, it was one in five, and by the end of 2009 it will be one in three. In fact, by 2013 smart phone market share is forecast to grow to over 38 percent of the U.S. market, and according to a recent survey just conducted by the Yankee Group, 41 percent of U.S. consumers are already considering a smart phone for their next device. Personally, I’d say those numbers sound incredibly low. Not just because phones are getting more powerful or onboard computing strength is getting cheaper, but because advances in mobile computing are about to fundamentally change what we think of as a “smart phone.”Just as PCs have primarily become terminals for access to Internet-based content and applications, mobile handsets will need less and less onboard capability to do the things that make them “smart.” The phone as terminal for all things smart Remote data centers can better manage the applications, information, and rote data crunching that smart devices require. All we’ll need is a basic Internet connection and data can be passed back and forth from the phone to the data center in near real-time, without having to bog our devices down with heavy applications and software. The services people most want to connect with – Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc – are already based in the cloud. Once consumers realize they are so close to access to these services, we’ll be well on our way to breaking through the forecasts for “smart phones.” By reducing the need for raw processing power on the handset while offering genuinely compelling services for any mobile device, today’s mobile software developers have already begun to make every phone smarter. In Silicon Valley there are dozens of start-up companies now working to take this trend to the next level – using remote servers to power ever-better applications that run on even the simplest devices. Any phones that can connect to the Internet will be able to take advantage of this architecture to deliver an experience that rivals today’s smart phones at a fraction of the build and materials cost. These are just some of the reasons why I expect smart phones to dominate the handset market well before 2013. The coming wave of cloud-based services means that every phone is already a smart phone. Most users simply don’t know it yet. Jacobstein is CEO of iSkoot, a San Francisco-based technology company that helps integrate real-time access to Internet-based applications and services on mobile devices.