ChangeWave’s latest survey shows planned consumer PC buying going forward has jumped to its highest level in nearly two years.
It appears the release of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows 7 operating system is driving much of this momentum — and is having a direct impact on major PC manufacturers including Apple (AAPL), Dell (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), among others.
All told, 9% of the 3,129 respondents surveyed say they plan to buy a laptop in the next 90 days and 6% a desktop — representing a more than 15% increase in projected demand just in the past month alone.
Windows 7 Surge
When we asked planned PC purchasers which operating system they want installed on the computer they’re buying, nearly two-thirds (63%) chose Windows 7 — a full 14-pts higher than in our September survey.
While this is a long term bullish signal for major PC makers like Dell and Hewlett-Packard, there is also a downside — more consumers (12%; up 2-pts) say they have been delaying a PC purchase while waiting for Windows 7 to hit the market.
We note that dating back to May 2009, ChangeWave surveys of Windows 7 beta testers have consistently found strong satisfaction ratings (34% Very Satisfied; 58% Somewhat Satisfied).Thus from early on our data has been tracking the impact of Windows 7 and pointing to a promising launch for the new OS.
That said, below is a look at the past 90 days of PC demand along with what the next 90 days are projecting for Apple, Dell and Hewlett Packard:
Apple Mac Sales
Apple laptop sales (24%) have been on a roll the past 90 days, having experienced a tremendous surge in the period immediately following the iPhone 3GS release extending right up to the present. Apple desktop sales (17%) have been solid but not as spectacular during this same time period.
At least part of Apple’s large-scale laptop gains may be attributable to the publicity surrounding the release of the Apple iPhone 3GS. In other words, the 3GS launch appears to have resulted in a "Halo Effect" regarding Apple laptop demand.
But as powerful as the 3GS wave may have been in stimulating Mac demand over the past 90 days, there is a new game changer in the works — the release of Windows 7. And going forward, it could well steal at least some of Apple’s thunder during the next 90 days.
Looking ahead at planned purchasing, Apple’s consumer laptop share (22%; up 1-pt) remains stable. And Apple’s share of desktops going forward has actually dipped 3-pts to 21%.
But the good news is that overall PC demand is projected to be more than 15% higher over the next 90 days, and Apple is likely to benefit from that growth. The majority of the increase, however, is Windows 7 related, and should therefore also be a boost to Apple’s two chief competitors — Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
Bottom Line for Apple
Based on our latest survey results — and Apple’s recently released earnings — the Cupertino, California manufacturer has rung up another stellar quarter in terms of Mac sales. Moreover, the long term outlook for Apple remains very strong.
And while short term visibility is a potential issue as Windows 7 could sway some prospective Apple buyers to reconsider, Apple’s brand new line of redesigned MacBooks and iMacs could well lead to another surge in computer demand for the company.
Dell PC Sales
Dell should ultimately prove to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Windows 7 upgrade cycle, but over the past 90 days they have experienced nothing of the sort. To the contrary, fewer consumers appear willing to be the last ones to buy Dell laptops or desktops that feature the Vista OS.
Only 17% say they’ve purchased a Dell laptop and 24% a desktop in the past 90 days — down 7-pts and 4-pts respectively.
Going forward, we have yet to pick-up the expected surge in momentum for Dell, with planned desktop share (32%; down 1-pt) and laptop share (28%; down 3-pts) both slightly lower than previously. It’s clear that many consumers have been waiting for Windows 7 to be released before finalizing their buying decisions.
Bottom Line for Dell
Short term weakness is likely in Dell’s consumer PC sales due to more and more consumers waiting for Windows 7, but Dell remains excellently positioned to benefit from overall growth in the PC market as the Windows 7 wave hits going forward.
Hewlett-Packard experienced strong market share gains among respondents for both desktops (27%; up 5-pts) and laptops (25%; up 4-pts) over the past 90 days.
Looking ahead, planned purchases of H-P desktops (24%; down 1-pt) and laptops (25%; down 5-pts) have dropped, but this weakness is also likely related to consumers waiting for the release of Windows 7. As the rollout picks up momentum we expect H-P to benefit from the Windows 7 upgrade cycle.
We note that approximately 70% of H-P’s sales come from outside the U.S., whereas our ChangeWave surveys focus primarily on the U.S. market.
Andy Golub co-wrote this article.