Dataquest: 50% of US homes have PCs

Half of US households had a personal computer in 1998, a 23% increase since 1995, according to statistics released today by Dataquest. Lower prices kept alive the trend of annual steady increases in the percentage of US homes with a PC. But the research company is forecasting a saturation of 'the PC as we know it' around 65% in a few years.

Half of US households had a personal computer in 1998, a 23% increase since 1995, according to statistics released today by Dataquest.

Lower-priced personal computers kept alive the trend of annual steady increases in the percentage of U.S. homes with a PC. In 1995, just 27% of people had a PC in their home, in 1996, the number jumped to 36% and in 1997, 43% of households had a PC. The latest numbers will be published in Dataquest's Digital Consumer: Computers and Communications.

The figures are from an annual year-end survey by the market researcher. The new survey included 3,000 households, said Van Baker, director of Dataquest's consumer market research.

The increase cannot be solely attributed to the rise in numbers of first-time PC buyers lured by low-price machines, although the less-expensive models definitely helped.

"In the spring, two-thirds of the folks that were buying sub-$US1000 PCs were repeat buyers," Baker said, adding that he had just received the data from the recent survey and hadn't yet had a chance to do a comparative analysis.

People aren't buying home computers strictly for Internet access either.

"There's lots of different reasons ... Internet access has been rising in importance dramatically, but a lot has to do with education and work-at-home kinds of things," Baker said, noting that consumers are interested in specific performance options when they shop for computers.

Whatever their motivation, US consumers are expected to continue buying computers, even if at a slightly lower rate. The annual growth rate has been between 7 percent and 8 percent, Baker said, "but we think it might slow down a bit because we're forecasting a saturation of the PC as we know it around 65% a few years from now."

Dataquest, a division of Gartner Group, based in San Jose, California, can be reached at http://www.dataquest.com/.

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