Meeker Sees the Future, and It's Not PCs

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - In case you haven't noticed, Microsoft ( MSFT) Windows-based personal computers aren't selling as well as they used to. You can blame that on the explosion of better and better smartphones and tablets (thanks to companies like Apple ( AAPL) and Google ( GOOG)). Don't take my word for it. Mary Meeker says so.

Meeker, an Internet analyst and partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, gave her latest state-of-the-Web "Internet Report" at D11, the AllThingsD technology conference, Wednesday. In a series of charts and statistics, Meeker told a very interesting story about what is happening now and what to expect going forward.

Her presentation touched upon many subjects - from China pulling away from the rest of the world when it comes to Internet user growth (The United States is in 10th place after countries such as India, Iran, Russia, Nigeria and Brazil) to the virtual explosion of shared information (photos, video and music) to what she thinks will be the next big trend - wearable computers.

But, some of the most interesting slides told the story of the effect of portable devices - smartphones and tablets - are having on the way we use our beloved personal computers. From the room-sized mainframe computers of the 60's and '70s - to "personal computing" in the '80s - bolstered by Internet growth of the '90s - to the onset of "mobile Internet computing" in the 2000's - all are leading to the era we're living in now - the "everywhere Internet" of the 2010's and beyond.

In 2000, the big names in all kinds of computing were Compaq (now Hewlett Packard ( HPQ)), Dell ( DELL) and IBM ( IBM). Now it's HP, Apple, Acer, Lenovo, Samsung and Asus.

According to Meeker, the onset of smartphones began the attack on PC sales. First, Apple's iPhone. Then Android models. Then the iPad which shows as much as three times the market share growth of the iPhone. It's because of that popularity tablet shipments finally surpassed desktop PCs and laptops in the fourth quarter of 2012.

One interesting factoid to note, Meeker believes we're still in the early stages of global smartphone popularity. Her numbers show that when it comes to worldwide cellular phones there are approximately 1.5 billion smartphones users while there are more than 5 billion mobile phone users - what the industry now calls "feature phones". There's lots more room for additional smartphones penetration.

What's next? Meker believes the next "big thing" will be computer devices we wear - what she calls "Wearables/Drivables/Flyables/Scannables. Small, sensor-enabled devices which will change the way we do almost everything in the future. Google Glass is one of the first. And there are many companies working on computer-driven cars, low-cost drone mini-planes (for everything from farming to disaster relief) to the next generation of "smart tags", QR codes and stickers which are beginning to show up nearly everywhere and on everything.

Towards the end of the presentation, Meeker gave the scariest prediction of all. She said that while the United States trains many of the brilliant technology minds as sum as they're done with their studies we send these experts back where they came from. She pointed out that we should find a way to keep those well-trained students here to make sure the United States leads the world in developing the next big thing.

You can see Meeker's entire presentation here. It's quite fascinating.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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