Will Wii Change the Way We Surf?

According to a recent Merrill-Lynch study, by 2011, 30% of American households will own a Wii. If that estimate holds up (and given the Wii’s still-thundering sales figures, there’s no reason to doubt it), about one out of every three U.S. homes will soon have a new kind of Web browser sitting in their living room.

The obvious immediate objection, or course, is “who’s going to browse the Web without a keyboard?”

The most obvious immediate answer: the very young, who already send text messages over their cellphones more than they send IMs over their computers. They’ll acclimate quickly to the keyboard-free Web, and being so popular, developers will figure out ways to integrate the Wii’s pointer/nunchuck controller to Web apps which make the experience increasingly intuitive. (Of course, Nintendo could always go the Xbox route, too, and add a keyboard peripheral for us old school Netizens.)

Couple the Wii’s Internet Channel with the company’s stylus-operated DS handheld getting an Opera browser in June, and it’s easy to see Nintendo becoming the dominant Internet hardware company a few years down the road. Couple that to the growing sophistication and popularity of Web-integrated cellphones, and it’s difficult to see the PC remaining our main means for accessing the Internet for much longer.

So here’s the million dollar question: If the personal computer is no longer essential to the Internet, what happens to all the industries built around it?

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