Communication platforms – fast, now, or visible? [TUPdate]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, March 12, 2021

The frustrated plea “can you hear me now?” has evolved to include “can you see me now?” During pandemic and suddenly-working-at-home times, video calls have driven home the importance of having a robust, fast, and synchronous connection. Asynchronous activities such as text messaging and email don’t have the same need for speed and an instantaneous persistent connection.

It got me wondering – are people choosing one device over another for communication that demands higher-bandwidth or low-latency connections? Is there an age difference preference for right-now synchronous versus later-on asynchronous communication activities? Furthermore, are there other aspects beyond bandwidth and immediacy that encourage people to choose one device over another for certain types of communications? Are video work meetings, for example, more PC-based than smartphone-based?

So, I investigated our results from TUP/Technology User Profile 2020 to compare how widely communication activities are in regular use. I netted together asynchronous activities separately from synchronous ones. Then, I looked at differences by device type – smartphone, home PC, and tablet. I also looked at differences by age group, knowing that younger adults often have different sensibilities and experiences around communication than older or the oldest adults.

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How many gamers? [MetaFAQs]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, December 15, 2020

How many gamers are there? Is the market size big or small? Are the people that play games online or with their connected devices a small group of busy, fun-loving people, or is game-playing more widespread? This MetaFAQs answers the baseline question about how many millions of adults in the US, Germany, UK, and Japan use a game console, gaming desktop, gaming notebook, or even smartphones, PCs, tablets, or game consoles to play immersive games or other games. The results are based on TUP/Technology User Profile 2020.

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PC gaming by household size [MetaFAQs]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, December 6, 2020

Is playing immersive or other games on a PC more likely in a smaller or larger household? How widespread is PC game-playing in the US, Germany, UK, and Japan by household size?

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Employee’s video calls/meetings by device type [MetaFAQs]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, December 3, 2020

Employees are busy having video calls, meetings, and group chats and are using a wide range of devices. While smartphones are a top platform, home PCs, work PCs, and even tablets are regularly used. There are some differences by employer size and country. This MetaFAQs reports on the devices used for video calls/conferences by employer organization size and device type.

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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, 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.

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

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, October 2, 2020

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

TUPdates feature analysis of current or essential technology topics. The research results showcase the TUP/Technology User Profile study, MetaFacts’ survey of a representative sample of online adults profiling the full market’s use of technology products and services. The current wave of TUP is TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, which is TUP’s 38th annual. TUPdates may also include results from previous waves of TUP.

Current subscribers may use the comprehensive TUP datasets to obtain even more results or tailor these results to fit their chosen segments, services, or products. As subscribers choose, they may use the TUP inquiry service, online interactive tools, or analysis previously published by MetaFacts.

On request, interested research professionals can receive complimentary updates through our periodic newsletter. These include MetaFAQs – brief answers to frequently asked questions about technology users – or TUPdates – analysis of current and essential technology industry topics. To subscribe, contact MetaFacts.

Usage guidelines: This document may be freely shared within and outside your organization in its entirety and unaltered. To share or quote excerpts, please contact MetaFacts.

Work from home or stay at home – ready or not! (and supported or not) [TUPdate]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, March 20, 2020

As a long-time information worker, remote worker, and road warrior, I’ve learned to be flexible, resourceful, and use technology to my advantage. Whether I’ve been crunching numbers or presenting results from a café in Paris, my office, home, or somewhere in between, I’ve carried an evolving assortment of tech devices so I can stay connected and work.

However, there are many people who haven’t had this experience, and may not be prepared or supported.

This TUPdate investigates several groups of consumers and workers who will soon be encountering changes in their use of technology devices and services. With the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shifts taking place now, many are not technologically ready for a work-at-home or stay-at-home experience.

Although a home PC isn’t a requirement to get online, it’s still the most widely used and most-useful device for many activities.

Chart comparing work activities by device type

Among one key group – information workers – one of the most tech-savvy and tech-reliant groups, a work PC is the cornerstone of their work activity. (For this analysis, “Information Workers” are defined as employees who used an employer-provided PC). Even though most also have smartphones, home PCs, and tablets, there are only a few work activities done more often on any other type of device. Smartphones, despite the many apps developed for them and their constant presence, only surpass work PCs for making phone and video calls. Tablets, which are increasingly becoming PC-like (and not only because of Apple’s marketing), aren’t being used similarly to PCs for work activities.

Information workers are only one of several groups to stand out as not having home PCs and being the most able to benefit from them. For this analysis, I’ve used TUP/Technology User Profile to look at three groups:

Information workers – workers who have a work PC

Adult students – attending a college, university, or other learning institution full-time or part-time

Elders – age 55 or older

Information workers

Information workers as a group are the least ready to be working remotely. While some employers provide work notebooks that could potentially be used at home, most don’t. Forty percent of US information workers and 58% of German information workers are self-supported, having no work notebook but having a home PC. Even higher, 54% of US information workers and 65% of German information workers are unsupported information workers, having no work notebook.

Size of key groups working or staying at home

While it’s possible that some employers will simply have employees bring their work desktops home for the duration of their time working at home, I expect that not to be widespread.

Students

A smaller share of students than information workers have no home PC. Among American students, this share (29%) is larger than among students in Germany. Although some assignments and online classes and may be conducted using a smartphone or tablet, I expect many will require the larger screens or horsepower of a PC. Tablets aren’t an immediate answer at hand: only 26% of students without home PCs use a tablet.

Elders

Elders are another group likely to remain at home. Although there are regional differences about the age level of persons mandated to remain at home, those requirements are changing quickly. For this analysis, I set the bar low for typical definitions of being an elder or senior – at 55 or older.

Within elders, I also investigated a particularly vulnerable group – elders living alone. This group is one of the most connected groups of all these groups, at least with respect to the penetration of home PCs. Only 5% of American elders and 2% of German elders don’t have a home PC.

Looking ahead

The conditions for COVID-19 pandemic are uncertain. I expect most employers to support their information workers with additional technology, even though historically that’s only been the case for the minority of employers.

For self-supporting information workers that already have a home PC, this employer support is most likely to come in the form of expanded software licensing to support employees that need special software to get their job done, and remote access software to allow employees to reach their office-located desktops, servers, or networks. In many cases, especially among larger employers or technically sophisticated employers, new support will include the requisite VPN and security software to help protect the employer’s confidential information. For those self-supporting information workers with home PCs that are too old or underpowered to support the employee’s needs, some employers may order and provide work PCs for their employee’s homes. Other employers may rely on the employees to personally obtain a home PC so the employee can continue to work.

For unsupported information workers that don’t have a home PC, I expect most employers to provide a work PC or to encourage or to reimburse their employees for a home PC. As for self-supporting information workers, additional software, connectivity, and likely printing capabilities will be needed as well.

This is a quickly changing time, and it’s currently unknown how long the stay-at-home/work-from-home provisions will remain in place. However, over the last two decades, technology users have shown a strong amount of habit energy and inertial. What they do with technology changes slowly, even while there are rapid shifts in the devices and services they use – and where they use them!

Inertia simultaneously saves and disrupts technological transformation. Scanners and printers with integrated scanners have been at the heart of the paper to digital change. So much that was paper is now electronic. The “paperless office” has been a hyped cliché for decades, and yet is truer with each passing year. Although electronic signatures have been legal for over 20 years in most countries, and digital copies are increasingly acceptable in many cases, the migration from paper to electronic lumbers along gradually. Consumers and businesses alike continue to need to convert hardcopy documents and images into electronic form.

About TUPdates

TUPdates feature analysis of current or essential technology topics. The research results showcase the TUP/Technology User Profile study, MetaFacts’ survey of a representative sample of online adults profiling the full market’s use of technology products and services. The current wave of TUP is TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, which is TUP’s 38th annual. TUPdates may also include results from previous waves of TUP.

Current subscribers may use the comprehensive TUP datasets to obtain even more results or tailor these results to fit their chosen segments, services, or products. As subscribers choose, they may use the TUP inquiry service, online interactive tools, or analysis previously published by MetaFacts.

On request, interested research professionals can receive complimentary updates through our periodic newsletter. These include MetaFAQs – brief answers to frequently asked questions about technology users – or TUPdates – analysis of current and essential technology industry topics. To subscribe, contact MetaFacts.

Usage guidelines: This document may be freely shared within and outside your organization in its entirety and unaltered. To share or quote excerpts, please contact MetaFacts.