Survey: Plans to buy a Mac hit an all-time high

ChangeWave is probably best known as a purveyor of e-mail get-rich-quick investment tips. But it also runs a monthly survey of its 15,000 subscribers that has proven to be a pretty good barometer of tech buying trends. Its latest report, issued Sunday, offers bad news and good — bad for the industry, good for Apple (AAPL).

The bad news, based on the 4,416 responses it received, is that planned consumer spending over the next 90 days is about as low as ChangeWave has ever seen. As Paul Carlton, executive director of the ChangeWave Alliance, put it:

“Just 15% of respondents say they’ll spend more on electronics over the next 90 days compared to 34% who say they’ll spend less. The net difference between these numbers (-19-pts) is 13-pts lower than at the same time a year ago (Aug 2007).” (link)

The good news emerged when the 8% who planned to buy a laptop computer and the 5% who planned to buy a desktop were asked which brand they were considering. The number who picked Apple hit an all-time high for both laptops (34%; up 2 points) and desktops (30%; up 3 points).

That’s a marked increase from the roughly 18% who said they planned to buy a Mac two years ago and the 28% who said they planned to buy an Apple laptop (or 23% who planned to buy a desktop Mac) in August 2007.

Asked whether the iPhone factored into their thinking, 17% said they were more likely to buy an Apple computer because of the iPhone 3G; only 1% said they were less likely.

“These highly positive findings,” Carlton concludes, “point to the 3G iPhone having at least some ‘Halo’ effect on Mac sales going forward.”

The news was mixed for Apple’s competition. Planned purchases of Dell (DELL) notebooks (28%) was up 3 points since July and laptops (also 28%) was down 4 points. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) was down across the board: plans to buy HP laptops (20%) was down 4 points since July and desktops (17%) was down 3 points.

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