Among cell phone users in developed countries, IBM is betting the market with the biggest growth potential is...people over the age of 65?
It makes more sense than you'd think. According to recent findings, most of them already own cell phones, so it's not as if they're adverse to the technology. But unlike younger generations, who are seemingly targeted with a new cell phone gimmick every week, they're largely ignored on the marketing front—excepting a few efforts from Nokia and Samsung, which makes the senior-friendly Jitterbug
IBM's two-year research program, which also involves the National Institute of Design of India and Tokyo University, will explicitly focus on making cell phones easier to use, for both the elderly and the illiterate. Moreover, the software it develops will be open-source, so all governments and businesses can take advantage.
"As the population in Europe and North America ages, the need for specialized mobile devices will become acute," Ben Wood, research director at British consultancy CCS Insight, told Reuters. "Phone makers will have to adapt if they want to appeal to a generation that has grown up with mobile devices, but can't use them in the ways they used to."
In other words, the conventional "wisdom"—make the buttons bigger! make the ringtones louder!—is old news.