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, 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 used 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 used two or more home PCs. 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, more Americans are using a newer home PC.
Continuing a trend 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.
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 are 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.
While increasingly being used for activities that had been primarily ones done on home PCs, smartphones 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 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.
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