And if consumers use them, workers will want to use them, too. CIOs better prepare now for the coming wave of online-oriented employees.Remember how PCs came into the enterprise, through power users and business unit managers looking for a competitive edge? The same thing could happen with online applications, and if adoption by consumers is any indication, it's going to happen sooner rather than later.
A new survey by Rubicon Consulting says that more than a third of home computer users use at least one online application "to replace software that was previously installed on their PC." Rubicon interviewed more than 2,000 home PC users in the United States over this past summer, and 80% say they've heard of Web applications, more than half have tried at least one, and 37% say they use at least one Web application on a regular basis.
Consumers who use Web apps do so for a very simple reason: it's easy. "The barriers to adoption of Web applications are very low," said Michael Mace, a principal at Rubicon, in a statement.
By far, the No. 1 online app being used by consumers is e-mail -- 90% of the respondents who say they use online apps use online e-mail. Games is the second most-popular category, with just over 50% of online app users saying they play games online.
That much is probably obvious, if you thought about it for a minute. But if you drill down in the numbers, the results are more striking. For example, a little less than 20% of online app users use an online app for blogging; just over 15% do their finances or taxes online (IRS, take note) and the same number use an online word processing application.
Another perhaps not-so-surprising result of the survey: Web app users are more than twice as likely to be enrolled in college or graduate school. Not surprising because not only are students more online-oriented as a group, but the colleges themselves are exploring the use of online applications like Google's productivity suite.
That particular data point might tend to blunt, in some people's eyes, the immediate impact of the growing use of Web applications on today's corporate environment. Fair enough. But that's also a tsunami of a demographic shift just waiting to roll into the workforce. When they do, they'll bring a certain set of expectations, and expertise, around online applications with them.