A recent report in the UK from the BBC surprised me a bit.
In a nutshell:
- 50% of 25 to 34-year-olds told ICM researchers they would not be able to carry on without e-mail
- 44% of 35 to 44-year-olds said e-mail was vital
- 41% o of teenagers said they relied on e-mail
Anyway, the debate is interesting but, in my opinion, moot. Email and IM solve two different needs. Email is for asynchronous communication, IM is for synchronous communication. If I send you an IM, I expect you to answer right away. If I send you an email, I expect you to answer in a reasonable timeframe. IM does not kill email or viceversa. Both nicely co-exist.
IM requires people to have more time for others and be "available for interruption" (it has presence). It works well when you are a kid. IM time is higher over email time for teens (but email is not zero, you still need asynchronous communication...). When you grow up and start working, your IM time diminishes and your email time increases. I would bet that email time wins over IM time as soon as you join your first job.
Bottom line: teens are using email and will embrace mobile email (although maybe using it less than mobile IM, which is the SMS killer). Once they turn 24, I believe the switch happens. New generations with mobile experience will transform themselves in avid mobile email people. Consumer mobile email is going to be even bigger year after year.