Survey: Future PCs should do the laundry

A US survey conducted for Dell Computer has found that users want their PCs to tackle household chores like laundry and watering houseplants and the lawn.

"I'm sure there are folks out there somewhere who are working on that now," said Bob Kaufman, a Dell spokesman in an interview about the "TechKnow Generation 2000" survey which polled 1001 PC users across the US.

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 per cent said they want their computers to provide home security and 47 per cent want to use PCs to order groceries.

Respondents also want the Internet to assist them with mundane chores like renewing driver's licences. And 78 per cent of respondents want to be able to vote in major elections online, while 70 per cent want to pay parking or speeding tickets that way.

While such functions are conceivable, it's less clear how the 53 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent of those in the survey said they intend to access the Web via their PCs, followed by 21 per cent who plan to use their TVs, 17 per cent who said they are most likely to use a wireless phone or pager, and 13 per cent who will opt for handheld organisers. A mere 6 per cent 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 per cent said 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 per cent said they want to learn how to make better use of their PCs and the Internet and almost 60 per cent 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 per cent believe the Net has helped them to accomplish that. Besides exchanging e-mail and information via the Internet, 69 per cent 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 per cent would like to watch live concerts or Broadway shows online, while 61 per cent would order, download and watch movies via the Internet instead of running out to the video store. Half of those who took the survey said 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 per cent said that the Net has expanded their knowledge of the world and 86 per cent 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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Nancy Weil

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