Wilson Ng

Wired Desktop

IF YOU you think the United States leads in broadband internet penetration, think again. It is way behind, and this may be because the country is so big. A recent survey by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Census Bureau reported that only 68.7 percent of US households have Internet. Of the figure, only 63.5% of these households use broadband connection. The figure means the other 5% still probably use dial-up.

The figures show that as of 2009, about 32 million urban households in the US and about 11 million rural households did not have Internet.

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What are the reasons for the figures? For rural households, 38 percent said they were not interested, 11 percent said it was not available, 22 percent said it was too expensive, while another 16 percent said they had no computers. For urban households, close to 38 percent said they were not interested, 27 percent said it was too expensive, and 19 percent said they had no computers. Only 1 percent said it was not available.

President Obama pushed for universal broadband connection but it seems there is still a long way to go, especially if some people simply feel they have no need or have no money for it. Certainly, the figures indicate that there is a higher percentage of US household without Internet connection than there are Philippine households with no cellphones at all.

The thing to note here is to understand, especially those of us who work in the computer industry, that while we keep harping over the years on how technology can change our lives, there is a significant number of people who just don’t care. They have no interest and just want to get something that works without complication.

In fact, in an interesting video, Google showed an interviewer going around New York City asking people what a browser is. Many don’t know (only eight percent of the people asked answered correctly, and if you know what a browser is, you probably are more sophisticated than most of the New Yorkers on the street). In fact, a good number of them answered Yahoo or Google when asked what browser they used.

Another video I saw years back involved Oracle. When they went around the city to ask if anybody knew what Oracle does, none could give the right answer.

If you really think about it, the products that have been most successful are not those that are sophisticated, but generally, those that are easiest to use. Why did people go for Windows? Because it certainly was much easier to use than DOS. Why do some people swear by the Mac? Most people will say it’s cool, but people I know who switch from Windows say in unison – it’s much easier to use.

This is the reason, despite it being trumpeted as free, Linux still does not have many users in the desktop. For many, it was just too difficult. Meanwhile, there are now several contenders for the smart phone. There is Windows Mobile (now planning to release version 7) which has been in the market for over 10 years. Then there is the Blackberry, Palm Pre, and Google Android.

There is one thing in common with these four systems, they are said to be better and more sophisticated in some respects than the iPhone. For one, they can multitask and run several applications, while the iPhones have to do these one at a time.

However, the iPhone outsells and outshines the four systems. People say it’s because of Apple, but then maybe Apple’s genius is not just in marketing, but in designing things that are more intuitive and easier to use. And that should be all what we in the tech industry should always remember! If you want mass adoption, keep it simple and easy!

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