Microsoft: Less Than Half Of U.S. Adults Are Up To Speed On Tech Terms - InformationWeek

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5/25/2006
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Microsoft: Less Than Half Of U.S. Adults Are Up To Speed On Tech Terms

A Microsoft-sponsored survey found that less than 50% of U.S. adults are hip to the latest technology buzzwords, and even fewer can say what VoIP, RSS, or tagging means.

Microsoft-sponsored survey found that fewer than 50 percent of U.S. adults are hip to the latest technology buzzwords and even fewer can say what VoIP, RSS or tagging mean.

The poll, released this month and conducted by Harris Interactive for Microsoft on its Windows Live service, found that only 43 percent of U.S. adults understand the latest batch of IT buzzwords, even though some may have actually used the technology during the survey.

One in three U.S. adults aren’t sure how to describe VoIP, and 71 percent said they had never heard of RSS feeds. Forty-six percent aren’t certain what Internet tagging means, although they are likely bookmarking favorite Web pages and organizing them daily. Although 79 percent of U.S. adults are aware of blogs, approximately only 17 percent admitted to typically reading them. Also according to the survey, this is especially true among women, who are significantly less likely to know the meaning of these terms than men.

At least one Microsoft partner was surprised that the percentage of buzzword-literate U.S. adults—43 percent—was as strong as it is.

“Anything over 40 percent would impress me as a lot [of people],” said Andrew Brust, CTO of New York-based consultancy twentysix New York. “All these Web 2.0 terms belong to a lexicon that only some people have a command of. It’s an insular group, mind you, but it’s definitely not mainstream.”

“Did you know that fewer than half the people surveyed by some cable channels could find Iraq on a map?” Brust added. “I would hope more people could locate Baghdad on a paper map than know what geocoding means.” [Editor’s note: Geocoding, according to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, is the process of assigning geographic coordinates such as latitude and longitude to data such as physical street addresses and IP addresses.]

There’s another reason Microsoft conducted the poll: to advertise its new Windows Live Internet services platform.

In the release issued earlier this month, the Redmond, Wash., software giant first defined the tech terms some survey respondents stumbled over—blogs, VoIP, beta, RSS and tagging—and then identified Windows Live services that provide those capabilities. For instance, Microsoft noted that blogs can be built using Windows Live Spaces and VoIP can be accessed through Windows Live Messenger, which moved into beta testing last week. Microsoft also pointed out that users can pick and receive RSS feeds by accessing www.live.com.

Another Microsoft solution provider said some of these technology buzzwords don’t mean much to the U.S. populace but already are being integrated into the mass market.

“Microsoft is trying to educate the masses about the technology, and while [it’s] a noble attempt, I think the general U.S. public just wants to use the technology without necessarily understanding it,” said Ken Winell, CEO of Expert Collab, a new Microsoft solution provider in Florham Park, N.J. “VoIP, RSS and blogs are cool buzzwords but are not meaningful to the non-tech person. What is meaningful is saving money on their phone bill or getting a newsfeed about the bass stocking in the region they live.”

But whether or not users know it, blogs and Internet services are fast becoming mainstream, Winell added. “Blogs and MySpace/social networking is the modern day community bulletin board," he said. “I expect to see kiosks for blogs at the senior centers that talk about shuffleboard contests and bad dinner theater any day now!”

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