Consumers vote Mac for laptop buying plans

More than a third of American consumers planning to purchase a laptop in the next 90 days will buy from Apple, a market research company said this week.

The surge for Apple is likely being driven by the new MacBook Air, the lightweight notebook that debuted a month ago, said Paul Carton, vice president of research at ChangeWave Research.

"Odds are [consumer interest is due to] Apple's refreshed MacBook Air line, featuring a slimmer design, multi-touch glass touchpads and solid-state flash memory," Carton said in an e-mail Wednesday.

In a November survey of more than 2,800 U.S. consumers, ChangeWave found that of those planning to buy a notebook within 90 days, 36 percent said they would purchase an Apple system. That's an 11-point jump from ChangeWave's October poll and the highest number ever for Apple in a ChangeWave survey, said Carton.

In October 2009, only 22 percent of those with plans to purchase a notebook in the next three months said that they would pony up for a MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

The outlook for other major U.S. notebook makers is bleaker.

Nineteen percent of consumers with laptop purchase plans said they would pick a Dell notebook. That's down four points since last month, and Dell's lowest level ever. Hewlett-Packard fared slightly better: 22 percent of those planning to buy a laptop said they would select an HP machine. Like Dell's, HP's number for November was off four points from the month before.

One in 10 consumers said that they plan to purchase a laptop in the next 90 days, the highest level of notebook interest in three years, Carton said.

Apple's revamped MacBook Air line includes two models, one that features an 11.6-in. display and starts at $999 and the more familiar system that boasts a 13.3-in. screen. The latter is priced starting at $1,299. Both models forgo a traditional hard disk for a solid-state drive (SSD) with between 64GB and 256GB of storage space.

Apple's iPad also seems destined to sell briskly in the next three months, added Carton. According to ChangeWave's survey, 9 percent of U.S. consumers said they will buy an Apple tablet within 90 days.

The iPad also tops the "must have" holiday gift list, with 22 percent of consumers polled by ChangeWave naming it as the number one item on a child's or grandchild's wish list.

ChangeWave's iPad results were similar to those of Nielsen, which released a survey earlier this week that said 31 percent of children ages 6-12 were hoping for an Apple tablet this holiday season.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

Read more about laptops in Computerworld's Laptops Topic Center.

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