Key Home PC Trends [TUPdate]

Home PC Penetration

The home PC has been a central part of the American technology user’s world for years, and while remaining so for many, the home PC is slowly losing its primacy among some market segments.

Home PCs have been challenged by the emerging use of smartphones and tablets, and not only among younger Americans. Older Americans have also rapidly adopted smartphones and are starting to discover how to use them well. Home PC makers, software developers, and service providers have worked hard to keep the home PC as a central device, or at least one that is included.

The home PC is not down and out – not by a long shot. The humble PC is in use by most online Americans. In 2020, 75% of online adults in the US actively use a home PC. From 2015 to 2019, this level was effectively flat at 80%.

Number of Home PCs is Shrinking

Home PCs, while widely used, are not as intensively used within American households as before. Online adults are using slightly fewer home PCs than in recent years. From 2015 through 2020, half of online Americans used only one home PC, with that number lowering slightly to match its levels of 2016.

In 2020, 26% of online adults use two or more home PCs. Previously, from 2015 through 2019, 28% to 32% of online adults used two or more home PCs.

Age of Home PC by User Age

If a smaller number of Americans are using a home PC and even using fewer home PCs, at least more Americans are using a newer home PC.

Continuing a trend that has held for most of the last eight years, younger adults continue to use the newest home PCs. Older Americans keep their home PCs longer.

Americans age 18-24 are using a home PC two years old on average. Meanwhile, users age 65+ are using a home PC 3.6 years old on average.

Major Home PC Activities are Age-Skewed

Home PCs are used differently by the young and old. That is especially true for the top 12 home PC activities, those regularly done.

Older adults are getting more use out of their home PCs than young adults are. All the major home PC activities are being used by a higher share of older than younger Americans, save one.

There is only one exception – watching videos/movies. The share is higher among younger adults than among older adults, although only slightly so.

Looking Ahead

While it may seem that losing younger adults spells the end of the home PC market, that is a bit of a stretch. There is much going on in the market and economy now that affects younger Americans in different ways than even slightly older ones. Employment status and educational status is in flux, strongly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and accommodations to minimize its impact. Younger adults have a lower employment rate than other age groups, and more importantly a lower work-from-home rate. Many that had been employed were in occupations that were less supportive of working remotely. Furthermore, younger Americans are facing stronger economic challenges than in years past.

Meanwhile, somewhat older employed adults that work in occupations where they can work remotely are doing so. In many cases, working remotely is something they are doing for the first time. Among these active employed adults, home PCs are being pressed into service as work PCs. There has already been a long trend towards using home PCs for work-related activities. From our TUP 2020 survey results, it does appear that most employers are stepping up to provide employer-owned PCs to remote workers. It seems most likely that employees will continue to support their employers and themselves by using their own home-owned PCs in addition to their smartphones.

Smartphones, while increasing being used for activities which had been primarily ones done on home PCs, are still not the preferred platform for certain key activities. Shoppers seem to want bigger screens as they consider their purchases. TV and video watchers also prefer bigger screens.

Meanwhile, tablets simply have not gained enough market strength to replace home PCs. Many notebook home PC users are not even using their notebooks for mobility, hardly leaving home with them. And this “buy mobility/use it like a desktop” trend has been in place well before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In short, home PCs are highly likely to have a place in American homes for years to come.

About TUPdates

The information in this TUPdate is based on the most recent wave of the MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile study, its 2020 wave, the 38th annual wave. Where noted, results are drawn from previous versions back to TUP 2013. This TUPdate is focused on the US, and comparable information results are available from the UK, Germany, Japan, China, and India. More information on this topic is available in published results already released to subscribers, and in the forthcoming US Home PC Trends Highlights Report.

On request, interested research professionals can receive complimentary updates through our periodic newsletter. These include MetaFAQs – brief answers to frequently asked questions – or TUPdates – analysis of current topics in the technology industry. To learn about subscribing to the TUP/Technology User Profile service, contact MetaFacts.

Home notebooks – stuck at home and getting things done [TUPdate]

Home mobile notebooks are popular for keeping at home

Mobile computing means much more than being able to work or play while traveling. Despite travel restrictions and worldwide stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, mobile computers reign as the most-popular home computer. Well over half (57%) of online adults use a home notebook, compared to 46% using at least one home desktop. MetaFacts surveyed online adults in six countries for the 2020 wave of TUP/Technology User Profile:  the US, UK, Germany, China, Japan, and India. Notebook use is strongest in Japan (72% of online adults) and Germany (67%), and lightest in the US (50%).

Notebook use is strongest in Japan (72% of online adults) and Germany (67%), and lightest in the US (50%). In fact, the majority of home notebook computers have historically stayed at home. Many users choose notebook computers over desktops so they can take it with them in case they travel, for school, or if they may decide to bring it along to a coffee shop or library. However, the most mobility many notebooks may ever see is the trip from the kitchen to the living room.

Home notebooks get newer

Online adults around the world are using a notebook that is less than three years old on average. Apple has recently released updated Apple MacBooks and they are starting to get into the hands of users to update the installed base. Some users keep their notebooks longer than others. In Japan and Germany, online adults are actively using MacBooks for an average of 3 years (Japan) and 2.7 years (Germany). In contrast, online users in China and Japan are using newer home notebooks.

Google Chromebooks have the lowest age of home notebooks in the active installed base. This is primarily because the market has been slow to adopt Chromebooks. Some users are Google-averse or are not using other Google service such as Google drive that could offer them some benefits of using a Chromebook. Other users prefer more feature-rich notebooks. Yet other users simply prefer Apple MacBooks.

Home notebooks are well-used

Home notebooks are used for a wide range of activities, from everyday web browsing to focused activities such as online banking and shopping.

It could be argued that with the Internet and a browser, notebooks are not fundamentally different whether they are running Windows, Apple, or Chrome OS. However, users do not see it that way, as shown in the bottom line of how they use their home notebooks.

Chromebooks, the most basic of notebooks, are being used for a narrower breadth of activities than either MacBooks or Windows notebooks. Fewer Chromebook users do the same activities other home notebook users regularly do. The relatively strongest activity among Chromebook users is shopping (36% versus 38% overall) and searching on health topics (30% versus 33% overall).

Part of these usage differences say more about the types of customers attracted to a Chromebook than about the hardware or operating system. In broad socioeconomic terms, Chromebooks are used by adults in lower socioeconomic groups, Windows used throughout all strata, and Apple used primarily by upper socioeconomic groups.

MacBooks are also not used for as wide a range of activities as Windows home notebooks. However, several activities are strongest among home MacBook users. With Apple’s tightly coupled ecosystem with iPhones such as with Handoff, text messaging and phone calls rank higher than on Windows or Chromebooks. Also, managing home security/climate/lighting is stronger among MacBook users, although likely because of the stronger tech profile of its users and less so about only using Apple’s HomeKit.

Home Windows notebooks are used the most broadly. More Windows notebook users use their notebooks more than MacBook or Chromebook users for all the major activities except one – cloud storage of personal files.

Looking ahead

Home notebooks will continue to be a mainstay for home technology devices for the foreseeable future. Although smartphones have started to be used for several activities, particularly for communication, they have far to go before fully replacing notebooks. Similarly, while online adults with tablets are using them for many of the same activities, tablet penetration still lags far behind notebook use.

About TUPdates

The information referred to in this TUPdate is based on the results gathered in TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, its 38th annual wave, and based on surveys of online adults in the US, UK, Germany, Japan, China, and India.

Current subscribers to TUP/Technology User Profile will be receiving a full report on notebooks, desktops, who is using them, and how they are being used as part of TUP and its PC chapter. Also, clients with inquiry privileges may request more detailed analysis into their own choice of market segments, technology products and services.

Work from home on the shoulders of employees, for now [TUPdate]

Working exclusively from home

Are you reading this from home? That makes you one of the 391 million of online adults working remotely we found in our TUP/Technology User Profile survey across 6 countries. If you are like the average employee around the world, you are also reading this on your own PC, tablet, or smartphone, and not one provided by your employer.

Home PCs are the new work PCs

Insights professionals in the tech industry already know from personal experience about working remotely. It was not too long ago that many researchers would be balancing notebooks on their knees in darkened focus group viewing rooms while reaching for another M&M or two. (Not that there’s anything wrong with M&M’s). However, most of the world’s employees do not have experience as remote workers, nor are they set up properly.

Working from home and working remotely have already been part of a long-term trend towards digital transformation. From the multi-decades-long move from desktop to mobile PCs, to the decade of rapid smartphone penetration and home Wi-Fi, consumers have more access than ever before. Terms like digital nomads and road warriors have lent a sense of panache to a lifestyle that has a certain effectiveness, if not comfort. However, in many cases, technology products and services have been pushing to generate demand rather than meet it. Many occupations, from factory work and food preparation to restaurant service, are best done in a fixed location away from home. Without question, digital transformation has been sped up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those fortunate enough to have jobs that can be done in whole or part from home have continued employment and income where others may not. As reported in an earlier TUPdate, working from home is for the socioeconomically privileged.

The rise in working from home

Employees that had not been exclusively working from home are now doing so. From our TUP/Technology User Profile 2020 wave (fielded in August 2020), we found that over half of employed online adults in the US and UK work exclusively from home. In Germany, Japan, and China, this rate is nearer to one-third or one-fourth. In India, 87% of online respondents who are still employed full-time or part-time work exclusively from home.

Percent of employed online employees that exclusively work from home - market research results from MetaFacts TUP Technology User Profile 2020

Employer size

Working from home governmental mandates and choices by employers and employees have affected employers of all size and types, although unequally.

From February 2020 and before, remote working has been a feature of smaller US and German employers before the lockdowns. Even in Germany, the UK and China, while rates are relatively low, the rates among smaller employers are higher than among larger employers.

After February 2020, working from home is new to employees among employers of all sizes. However, working from home is especially new for employees of large employers. That is the case among all the countries we surveyed and for those employers with 500 to 999, or 1,000 or more employees.

Statistics on working from home before or after February 2020 by employee size across six countries - research results from MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile 2020

Enlightened employers are few, yet growing

A small number of nimble, enlightened, or forward-thinking employers have risen to the COVID-19 challenge and are providing PCs and other technology to their employees working at home. The number is small, ten percent or less across multiple countries. Employees using an employer-provided work PC that they use at home and not in the workplace number 10% in the US, 9% in the UK, and 8% in India. These are the top countries among those surveyed.

Employees have borne the brunt of supporting their ability to work from home, with roughly half of employed adults working exclusively from home using their home PCs for any of a long list of work-related activities.

While the year 2020 has certainly been singular in the worldwide response to COVID-19, this support by employees has been a long-term trend. What has changed is the intensity of work using home PCs, which has become the hub for many employees.

Statistics comparing the use of PCs being used for work in the home and whether they are employer provided or personally acquired PCs, by six countries, from research conducted by MetaFacts in TUP/Technology User Profile 2020

Home PCs being used for work-related activities

Currently employed online adults have been resourceful using their home PCs for getting work done. Communication is key, with home PCs being used for everyday work email to web-based chats and meetings. Furthermore, employees are using their home PCs to tap into cloud services for storing files and collaborating on documents.

Whether or not having meetings follow employees home is more productive or less so is still open to confirmation. Employees working from home reported major productivity benefits including in their top five: less time commuting, money savings on gas and work clothes, and more flexibility. Also in their top five were human issues: being able to spend more time with family and pets, and being able to minimize the impact of COVID-19, whether by not getting infected themselves or not risking spreading it to others.

Research results reporting on how home PCs are being used for work-related activities from the MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile 2020 study across six countries

Looking ahead

The current situation is unlikely to persist as it is very long for many reasons, many of which are beyond the scope of the TUP/Technology User Profile survey. It is economically unsustainable to have so many employees not employed, underemployed, or doing work that is not part of their main occupation. Many occupations and industries simply do not lend themselves to remote work, such as manufacturing and service jobs. As fun as VR headsets can be, current technology can only support so much. While the current situation may spur stepped up innovation, and that is certainly happening in some sectors, it seems unlikely that changes will come rapidly enough for more than only a few sectors.

Beyond that, employers, many of whom are already fiscally challenged, may be hard-pressed to come to the table with even basic personal computers, printers, and internet connections. Employers certainly have not shown precedent. Historically, most employees have paid for their own technology to do work outside of the workplace, from their personal home PCs, home printers, and smartphones purchased personally. That is especially true for U.S. employees. In TUPdates to come, we will be analyzing more of the TUP results with a focus on those working from home. We will be looking more deeply into the technology they are using for work and play, what they are planning to buy, the brands they are using, and profiling who they are. We will be especially drilling down in the TUP datasets to look more closely at parents, industries, the self-employed, and students.

About TUPdates

The information referred to in this TUPdate is based on the results gathered in TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, its 38th annual wave, and based on surveys in to the US, UK, Germany, Japan, China, and India.

Current subscribers to TUP/Technology User Profile will be receiving a full report on working from home and remote work as part of TUP and its Work/Life Balance section. Also, clients with inquiry privileges may request more detailed analysis into their own choice of market segments, technology products and services.