Apple whips rivals in consumer purchase plans

Times may be tight, but Apple beats Dell, HP in U.S. consumer survey

More U.S. consumers plan to buy an Apple computer in the next 90 days than any other brand, a market research firm said today as it published results of a survey of over 4,000 Americans conducted earlier this month.

Of the consumers polled by ChangeWave Research who said they expect to buy a personal computer in the next three months, 32% plan to purchase a Macintosh. The closest rival was Dell Inc., which accounted for 28% of planned purchases.

Apple Inc. was also the only vendor whose plan-to-buy share increased from July in both desktops and laptops. In the former, Apple gained three percentage points, climbing to 30% from 27% last month. On the laptop front, Apple increased its share by two points, reaching 32%, compared with 30% in July.

Both the desktop and laptop numbers were records for Apple in ChangeWave's long-running consumer-spending surveys.

Dell's desktop share, meanwhile, increased by three points, climbing to 28%. But the company lost four points in the laptop race, down to 28% from 32% in July.

Hewlett-Packard Co., however, was decidedly in decline. Planned HP desktop purchases were off three points from the month before, down to 17%, while planned notebook buys dropped four points to 20%

"Apple's reached the tipping point," said Paul Carton, ChangeWave's research director. "Where the early adopters and the discretionary spenders were leading the charge, now as we go into the 30% range [for planned purchases], the change to Apple looks permanent. What we have in the end, actually we're sort of there now, is that buying an Apple is as normal as buying a Dell or an HP [computer] in America."

Carton said that Apple's consumer satisfaction scores and the "halo effect" of the iPhone would continue to pump up the company's sales. Apple trounced rivals such as Dell, HP, Acer and Lenovo on customer satisfaction, he said. In the August survey, 81% of people who had bought a Mac in the past 90 days said they were "very satisfied" with the purchase. In comparison, 58% of Dell buyers, 57% of HP buyers, 53% of Acer buyers and 48% of Lenovo buyers said they were similarly satisfied.

"You want to see what a halo effect looks like? Take a look at last year," said Carton, pointing out the Mac's 6.5-point jump in the planned purchase share last summer, immediately after the first-generation iPhone debuted.

That halo effect has continued, Carton said. In the August survey, 17% of those polled said that they were more likely to buy a Mac desktop or laptop because of the iPhone 3G, the model Apple launched last month.

"This year's halo isn't to the degree of last year's, but in this economic environment and the fact that Apple's hitting its biggest numbers ever, [this] means it's enough to see Apple significantly outperform expectations going forward," said Carton.

"Everything else [being] equal, Apple's outperforming in an incredibly difficult consumer-spending environment," Carton observed.

During Apple's most recent quarter, which ended June 30, the company sold a record 2.5 million Macs.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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