Future PCs should tackle household chores
(IDG) -- For further evidence that the Internet is turning a growing proportion of the U.S. population into geeks, consider that a Dell Computer Corp. survey found that high-speed Internet access is a more important home feature than an extra bathroom or walk-in closets to at least some people, who also want their PCs to tackle household chores like laundry, watering the houseplants and lawn care.
The Round Rock, Texas-based company polled 1,001 PC users nationwide, although we suspect that most of the respondents must live in the suburbs because they don't covet an extra bathroom or bigger closets, and because they have lawns -- all of which ordinary city dwellers lack. But we also have to concede that it would be grand if our PCs would do the laundry and take care of the houseplants.
"I'm sure there are folks out there somewhere who are working on that now," said Bob Kaufman, a Dell spokesman about the "TechKnow Generation 2000" survey.
While half of those surveyed cited laundry duty and watering plants and the lawn as things they would like their PCs and the Internet to do for them, 67 percent said they want their computers to provide home security and 47 percent want to use PCs to order groceries.
Respondents also want the Internet to assist them with mundane chores like renewing driver's licenses and license plates. Not surprisingly for anyone who has ever faced a state Department of Motor Vehicles line, 90 percent said they'd like to take care of license and tag renewal via the Internet. Seventy-eight percent want to be able to vote in major elections online, while 70 percent want to pay parking or speeding tickets that way.
While such functions are conceivable, it's less clear how the 53 percent who want to serve jury duty via the 'Net will be able to perform that civic duty online.
Such responses seem to underscore the view of 97 percent of respondents that technology and the Internet will continue to play key roles in daily lives over the next five years. Despite vendor hype about the coming era of Internet access via a host of devices, 76 percent of those in the survey said they intend to access the Web via their PCs, followed by 21 percent who plan to use their TVs, 17 percent who say they are most likely to use a wireless phone or pager, and 13 percent who will opt for handheld organizers. A mere 6 percent expect to access the Internet via a household appliance.
Among those who say that they are likely to use other devices for 'Net access, nearly 80 percent say that the PC will be their primary means of logging on. That finding indicates that "the PC is as vital as ever," Kaufman said.
This is, of course, good news for Dell, which intends to use the survey as a way to gauge what prospective customers most want from their PCs and Internet access. (It could be that what they most want is for company chief Michael Dell, or some duly appointed representative, to come over and water the lawn and wash the clothes.)
The survey was given to PC users who access the Internet at least once weekly, but respondents on average log on 11 times weekly. Despite their apparent Internet savvy, they would like some help using their PCs and the Internet.
Seventy-one percent said they want to learn how to make better use of their PCs and the Internet and almost 60 percent said they'd be interested in having a personal Internet trainer give them a hand (or maybe just tackle the household chores).
In the meantime, they apparently are using the Internet to build stronger relationships with family and friends -- 67 percent believe the 'Net has helped them to accomplish that. Besides exchanging e-mail and information via the Internet, 69 percent either do play games online or would like to. The same percentage either do or would like to download, store and listen to music via the Internet.
Sixty-four percent would like to watch live concerts or Broadway shows online, while 61 percent would order, download and watch movies via the Internet instead of running out to the video store. Half of those who took the survey say they would download and read books over the Internet.
Even though they might be less inclined to leave home because they would rather surf the Internet, 87 percent said that the 'Net has expanded their knowledge of the world and 86 percent said that the Internet helps youngsters learn at home (even, we must note, if it can't force them to do the laundry or the yardwork).
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