Canadians use their PCs for work, entertainment and communication

Canadians know what they want and are asking for it, according to a recent survey released by Ipsos-Reid.

A total of 400 consumers with at least one computer in the household and 400 information technology decision-makers across Canada were interviewed over the telephone over a two-week period in the spring of 2001. The results revealed that like the furnaces and stoves and dial tones of, well, last year, Canadians are expecting unquestioned reliability from their home computers. The survey also revealed that Canadians are evolving in their computer usage, taking advantage of features such as digital photography, instant messaging and music downloads.

According to Chris Ferneyhough, vice-president of technology research at Ipsos-Reid in Toronto, there were no real surprises in the findings, although the results do say something about the way that computer usage has changed in Canada.

“The real message is how much the computer has evolved as a household element,” Ferneyhough said. “It’s so much like an appliance, that we have a certain standard for it now. We’re dependent on it for a wide variety of things.”

Not only do Canadian computer users want their PCs to work, we want them to work quickly, as 30 per cent of Canadians with Internet access subscribe to high speed connections. This number is projected to increase to 50 per cent within the next two years.

The survey revealed that home computers are acting as hubs for work, communication and entertainment. For Microsoft Canada, these results fit nicely with current and upcoming products, such as the fall release of Windows XP.

For Erik Moll, Windows XP product manager for Canada in Mississauga, Ont., the key result of the survey was that technology has become as mainstream in the home as it has in business.

“I was impressed by haw far the technology has become pervasive in the home and how much users are pushing the envelope for their technical requirements,” Moll said. “With increased broadband use and more use of machines at home, computers have become an integral part of our daily lives. They have simplified and improved our day-to-day activities, not just our work lives.”

Ferneyhough predicted the future of computer usage at home will involve the purchase of multiple PCs within a household, a trend that 38 per cent of Canadians with a computer already follow. This number includes both desktops and laptops.

“People don’t want to be waiting behind their kids to go online,” Ferneyhough said. “PCs will become more like TVs in multiple rooms with more access, and they’ll be customized as to what they’re used for.”

The survey revealed that 64 per cent of all Canadian households have at least one computer, with the majority of computer owners in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Most computer owners are between the ages of 35 and 54, however the over-55 demographic is on the increase.

According to the survey, most Canadians use the Internet to visit news and information sites, however, around 40 per cent of all Canadians who use the Internet participate in online banking and comparison shopping.

Marc Koehn, a director of CIPS British Columbia and a member of the Project Management Institute, suggested that there are a number of reasons for the increase in household computer use.

“It’s the price points. It’s the push by broadband providers to provide constant-on Internet,” Koehn said. “It’s hard to say that any one thing drives it, or if we are where we think we are. The trend is pretty clear and the drivers are multifaceted.”