The real cost of the smartphone revolution

This morning’s Observer column.

For many years, the most assiduous provider of data about the ongoing revolution has been Mary Meeker, an industry analyst who once worked for Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that acted as lead underwriter for the Netscape IPO in August 1995 (and thereby triggered the first internet boom). She began making an annual conference presentation, “The Internet Report”, which acquired legendary status in the industry because it distilled from the froth some elements of reality.

Ms Meeker is now a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms, but she has not abandoned her old habits. Last week she presented her latest annual report – now labelled “Internet Trends” – at the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital conference in California.

It’s a whopping 112-slide presentation, which bears serious contemplation. Buried within it are some startling numbers…