Goldman: There Will Be as Much Mobile Commerce in 2018 as
E-Commerce in 2013

And most of it will come on tablets, they say.
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Imagine all the people sitting at their computers buying stuff. Amazon purchases of garbage bags and Canon 5Ds, felted animals on Etsy, Ikea rugs, trampolines from Walmart.com, diapers from Diapers.com, stamps from Stamps.com, etc.

That's e-commerce, and it was a roughly $638 billion business last year.

M-commerce is different: It's the stuff you buy on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. And we all know it is growing fast. Walmart's head of digital innovation told me that, last year, more than 50 percent of the visits to their website were coming on mobile devices. 

Last night, newly minted investor Om Malik posted Goldman Sachs quantitative forecasts for that growth. 

Goldman says that by 2018, we'll be seeing roughly as much mobile commerce ($626 billion) as we saw in e-commerce last year. In the shorter term, we're talking a tripling from 2012 to 2014. 

I will note that one number—or really, one ratio—seems worth thinking more about. 

Goldman's forecast here is that most m-commerce will be tablet-based. While they predict smartphone-based m-commerce growing at $20-$30 billion a year, they see a massive explosion in tablet-based sales. 

Another way to logic-check this Goldman forecast is that they see a bigger increase in m-commerce on tablets between 2013 and 2014 alone than the entire smartphone m-commerce market in 2013.

I'm not saying this is wrong, only that it doesn't track with our general experience of what "mobile" has meant. I'm talking traffic here, but what we've seen is tablets, despite relatively low prices and wide availability, experiencing steady growth—while smartphone traffic, on the other hand, has exploded. 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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