It's easy to be overwhelmed by all the raw trending data on device adoption.
Quarter after quarter, there's a new set of nine-digit numbers telling us what we all intuitively understand by now: consumers are buying lots of smartphones and tablets, quite a few laptops and a shrinking-but-not-insubstantial number of desktops.
Lost in the race is what the numbers might show stacked atop each other. The meta trend here is that, in a world full of computing devices with more similarities than differences, our capacity for processing data by machine is growing exponentially.
It's less important whether a user types or swipes, just that they engage with information and each other via advanced digital technology.
The idea of focusing more on what connected users do rather than what they do it on is championed in a new Deloitte report that labels modern multi-platform users with the strangely appropriate moniker "digital omnivores".
Deloitte has been using that term since its last Digital Democracy Survey last year, and it describes consumers who own and use a trio of tablets, smartphones and PCs to work, play, shop and socialise.
Unsurprisingly, the 2014 version of the Deloitte report finds the number of digital omnivores is rising sharply. Today, more than one third of US consumers over the age of 14 (37 per cent) qualified as digital omnivores, a 42 per cent increase over last year.
Unsurprisingly, that trend is fuelled by a 33 per cent increase in tablet ownership among users who already own smartphones and laptops. There's also an 18 per cent increase in smartphone use among tablet and PC users.
Men now make up 55 per cent of digital omnivores; women rose from 35 per cent to 45 per cent in the US over the past year.
These are the kinds of trends often lost in the cold recitation of device market data. To really understand why it's the user and not the device that matters, it helps to peer into the kinds of activities in which these hyper-connected consumers are engaging with their plethora of devices.
The Deloitte survey is replete with consumer-y examples only tangentially interesting to IT professionals and channel partners.
Interest in streaming content has nearly doubled from 17 per cent to 32 per cent over the past year. Users who own video consoles are nonetheless devoting more of their gaming time to smartphones and tablets, a trend particularly noticeable among young female gamers.
"The continued rise of the digital omnivore is an indication that consumers, across generations, are hungry for content across devices, especially media and gaming content on mobile devices," said Gerald Belson, vice chairman and head of Deloitte's US Media and Entertainment unit. "Consumers are often now able to watch the content they want on the device of their choosing. TV shows don't have to be watched on home TVs.
"This trend is particularly evident in trailing millennials, who indicated they now spend more time watching television and movie content on non-traditional devices than on TVs," he said.
Those consumer trends aside, however, there is some red meat for mobile technology partners and content developers in the Deloitte report. One item of specific interest in the rapid increase in the amount of multitasking that users with multiple devices do, whether at work or at home.
Some 86 per cent of the digital omnivores claimed to be multitasking across different devices now, up from 72 per cent in 2011. Millennials were the most active multitaskers, engaging in an average of four other activities while doing something else like watching TV. Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers were also multitasking more, with both generations generally engaging in more than one additional cross-device activity now.
"Coupled with the increase in multitasking and the fact that viability of second screen services remains unproven, consumers are driving a fundamental shift in industry practices," said Deloitte Consulting's Alma Derricks.
"Even with so much fragmentation in the market, there's an enormous opportunity to capitalise on these behaviours and create offerings that engage consumers in new, meaningful ways."
Another factor that transcends the consumer-business chasm is the increase in cross platform social activity going on with multi-device users. More than half of those surveyed (54 per cent) said they check in with social networks daily, some as often as 10 times a day or more. And it's not just about being friendly.
Sixty-eight per cent said that online reviews or recommendations from someone in their social circles hold sway over their buying decisions. Even online reviews by total strangers are gaining credibility; 60 per cent said a pick or pan by someone they don't know still has a medium-to-high influence over their decision to buy.
"Changes in how content is consumed across multiple devices accelerate as new technology is introduced," said Deloitte's Belson. "This trend will continue as more consumers gain access to new media devices and consumption platforms.
"It brings about new challenges and exciting opportunities for organisations in the technology, media and telecom industries."
For more US-focused channel news, see www.channelnomics.com
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