What does history teach us about the future of Internet access?

Blog | 30 Aug 2012

Given that public-access kiosk software is one of our most popular products here at Genkiosk, our team is always keen to find out more. Internet as we know is has an interesting history and we have followed its evolution with interest. The most exciting thing though is the future of the Internet and its a subject very close to our heart.

“Things are definitely evolving, but they always have (especially in tech)” says John Waterhouse Technical Support Manager at GWD Media “we just need to ensure we’re good at embracing it and taking advantage of the new possibilities and opportunities”.

In the early days…

In the latter part of the 20th century, the Internet was quite limited and under-used. Can you remember the days of dial-up modems? Sitting there listening to your PC beep and whir! Internet data was transmitted over the same lines as were used for voice calling, so home users had to put up with very slow speeds; this lead to the birth and popularisation of public access Internet. Users could frequent their local Internet café, where they could take advantage of much greater bandwidth via state of the art ISDN lines which offered 64kbps as a minimum and sometimes up to 128kbps. This approach to enhanced Internet access proved extremely popular throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s and it still popular in areas of the world where there are infrastructure or financial limitations.

The late 1990s saw telecommunication companies begin to compete on the broadband front by offering the service to users at home, but adoption was slow and a the turn of the century people with an email address were still considered geeky or advanced.

During the first decade of the 21st the Internet began to take off and the dot.com boom & bust era was upon us. The Internet was still very much 1.0 and Google was still in its infancy, but people were beginning to wake up to the benefits of the web as a means of communication, self-information and shopping!

In 2000 the Internet saw 361 million users, compared to around 2.7 billion now! As a comparison, Facebook alone currently has three times as many with 955 million users!

The impact of Smartphones

Whilst Smartphones were available in their early form in the 1990’s, the reality was that the technology was too slow, expensive and feature-light; as a result, mass-market adoption did not happen. After all it was just for making calls, right? Back then, the only reliable way you could gain access to the Internet was via a computers; this is still the predominant means of accessing the Internet, but nowadays people have options.

Smartphones have certainly become a viable option and people use them to connect to a variety of cloud services and communities via the Internet. There are still some limitations though that justify the continuing use of PCs: screen size, cost of data, reception issues, roaming charges, battery life and processor speed.

Are tablets the answer?

Tablet computers are becoming more and more widely used and may even outstrip the sale of standard PCs in 2012. Tablets have managed to overcome many of the standard objections people have to Internet via Smartphone and yet have maintained their mobility and flexibility, whilst appearing stylish and sexy.

In the kiosk industry tablets are used as an alternative the traditional kiosks. As long as a tablet is housed in a secure stand there is no reason why they cannot be public access. For the operator they offer lower cost and for the user a more approachable touchscreen. Once the industry has overcome the issue of tablets’ lack of robustness for public access then these will become the hardware of choice.

To infinity and beyond!

If history teaches us anything it is that the Internet evolves quickly and unexpectedly. As purveyors of public access Internet kiosk software we are aware that new approaches and new business models are required. As personal access to Internet on the move (4G) becomes commonplace, operators will need to rethink how their standard Internet kiosks can morph into a new, more profitable offering.

The team at Genkiosk are already beginning to think about what this might look like: click here to read more.

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