Who is doing what with technology?

Who is doing what with technology?

Tom Abate /  SFGate
Monday, July 28, 2008

What if we could peer into
every household in the United States and divine how – and why – 221
million American adults use all sorts of technologies, from cell phones
to the Internet? Well, that’s what Forrester Research did, in the
statistical sense, with a new and wide-ranging survey, "The State of
Consumers and Technology: Benchmark 2008."

Forrester, a tech research firm in Massachusetts, polled a random
sample of 54,522 American adults, age 18 and older, who head their own
household. Respondents filled out 12-page, written surveys that asked
104 questions on all things digital.

With the help of analyst and lead author Charles Golvin, here are
key findings about how American consumers relate to technology, as
analyzed by the four age groups tapped in the survey: Generation Y,
Generation X, Boomers and Seniors.

How groups are making good use of technology

  Gen Y Gen X Boomers Seniors All households
1 mobile phone household 28% 24% 24% 36% 27%

Own a laptop

54% 47% 43% 22% 42%

Average spent

online in the past three months

$463 $643 $757-775* $595 $653

Source: Forrester Research

* Reflects two subgroups in the Boomer category

"There are only three things that a majority of online users do regardless of age: e-mail, search and read news."

– Charles Golvin, analyst and study author.

Mobile saturation?

Says Golvin, "Almost everybody has a mobile phone
these days … there’s not a lot of people who do not have a cell phone
that you can sell to."

Make mine untethered

In the two-plus decades since the PC took the place
of the typewriter, this digital dynamo has moved from desktop tool to
laptop pal. Now, Golvin says, multi-computer households are becoming
common because "otherwise it would be something the kids might fight

Fingers do the shopping

Online shopping is one activity that cuts across
all age groups, but there are nuances: In general, the younger the
person, the more likely they are to shop online. But because cash skews
toward age, smaller numbers of older buyers have more dollar impact.


Gen Y

Ages 18-28

38 million


10 million


Tagline: The Web rules, mass media drools.

Report: "GenY spends more time online (for leisure or work) than watching TV."

Golvin: "Gen Yers are more or less ‘digital natives’ … they are heavy users of new media. It is their default."

Gen X

Ages 29-42

63 million


34 million


Tagline: Comfortable online and with money to spend.

Report: "69 percent of online Gen Xers shopped online and 65 percent banked online, higher percentages than any other generation."

Golvin: "They have greater economic power (than Gen
Yers) and are quick to adopt technologies … there is a shift to
family needs and away from individual needs."


Ages 43-63

81 million


48 million


Tagline: These older dogs reluctantly learn new tricks.

Report: "As a group, Boomers … do not go online for new activities."

Golvin: "For this group, technology is primarily
about convenience … like online banking, they’ll use it once they get
proof it is easier and safe."


Ages 64 +

39 million


23 million


Tagline: Online, but barely and not often

Report: "Seniors . . . stick steadfastly to their
offline behaviors . . . this generation spends the least amount of time
online and still watches more TV and reads more newspapers than the

Golvin: "One might say an older dog is even more difficult to teach tricks to."

– Tom Abate

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