Consumer purchases of PCs are expected to be flat over the next 90 days, according to an August ChangeWave survey of 3,114 consumers. Eight percent of those questioned will buy laptops over the period and 5% will buy desktops.
This is in keeping with two longer term trends. The first is the shift toward laptops, which has been going on for more than five years as the machines have lost weight and gained processing power. The other is the more short-term trend of a pullback in PC purchases that had accelerated early in the year. This pullback has accounted for a drop in the share prices of PC-related companies including Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).
The netbook was supposed to be the single biggest driver of PC sales in the next several years. That has turned out not to be the case at all. After a surge in netbook purchases in the first half of 2009, category sales began a nearly relentless drop in ChangeWave’s surveys. The netbook’s future is likely to be bleaker as sales of the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad rise. The iPad is viewed by many analysts and consumers as a netbook replacement with a much better screen, more powerful processor and a much larger universe of downloadable applications. ChangeWave found that 22% of those surveyed said they were very or somewhat likely to buy an iPad in the upcoming three months. If so, this would do a great deal of damage to the netbook leader Asus and most of the major manufacturers who have shifted marketing dollars and manufacturing to these machines. iPad sales will almost certainly be helped by positive word of mouth. ChangeWave found that 72% of iPad owners were “very satisfied” with their tablets. Apple’s ongoing move toward supplanting the PC with many consumers continued recently and is likely to do so between now and the end of the year, which means sales of the Mac during the holidays should be especially strong.
Some 81% of Mac buyers are “very satisfied” with their computers, according to ChangeWave. That compares with 63% for HP owners and 54% for Dell. That level of satisfaction probably accounts for the reason that more than a quarter of people who plan to buy a PC in the next 90 days plan to buy a Mac, be it desktop or laptop. Given that the Mac is only about 8% of the PC market in the US, that number is remarkable.
The complete ChangeWave Consumer PC Buying report is available here.