So, are you a Mouse Potato or a Cybersnob?

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The Independent Online
Are you a Mouse Potato? Or a Cybersnob? A Gadget Grabber, or even a Techno-Striver? If there's a PC in your home, one of those labels almost certainly fits - and soon we may be as familiar with them as we are with such demographic incantations as "15- to 34-year-old ABC1".

The new titles have been developed by a US research company aiming to help technology firms to produce the next big hit product, rather than the next dust-gatherer: the Walkman rather than the Squarial, the camcorder rather than the Digital Compact Cassette.

The problem with present systems of describing consumers by age group and income, or by phrases such as "early adopters" - the group that always buys the first gadgets to hit the shops - is that they are too imprecise.

Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts, says those divisions do not reflect the varying interests and buying habits of today's techno-wannabes.

Hence the brave new world of the Mouse Potato and Cyber-snob. Forrester began by splitting people into technology optimists and pessimists. In each group there are those who have high or low disposable incomes. Equally, there are those whose motivation for buying technology will be entertainment, status, their career or their family.

The Mouse Potato is a technology optimist with a high disposable income who buys technology for fun, someone who bought a computer and uses it to surf the World Wide Web, or buys CD-ROM games. "Mouse Potatoes live for interactivity," says Mr Bernoff.

They stand apart from Media Junkies - who have high disposable incomes and love entertainment but can't understand PCs. "These are the people who are the first to buy satellite dishes," says Mr Bernoff.

The Cybersnobs, by contrast, see gadgets as a status symbol: they have the money and adore technology. "They buy the big-ticket techno toys and read Wired magazine," explains Mr Bernoff.But although they think they lead where others follow, in fact, "they typically adopt products that have already been proven by career- and entertainment-oriented consumers."

The Gadget Grabbers and the Techno-Strivers, by contrast, have little cash to spare, though they like technology. Their interests, respectively, are in entertainment and careers.

But the real key to hitting the technology jackpot is to get the "Neo- hearthminders" - technophiles with high and low incomes, who buy because they think their family's future lies in understanding technology - to buy your product. They comprise about a quarter of all adults.

Perhaps the most surprising conclusion from Forrester's analysis is that the fate of many new technologies will rest with women. More technology companies try to appeal to the Neo-hearthminders - "and women dominate purchases in this group, and wield considerable influence", Mr Bernoff says. Mouse Potatoes, beware.

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