Survey: 18% likely to buy Apple’s tablet

Interest among ChangeWave’s early adopters compares with the first Intel Macs

Click to enlarge. Source: ChangeWave Research

Adding to the pre-tablet buzz, ChangeWave Research issued the results Thursday of a survey gauging consumer interest in the new Apple (AAPL) device expected to be unveiled at next Wednesday’s “latest creation” event.

Asked how likely they would be to buy an ‘iSlate’ if-and-when it becomes available, the 3,314 respondents answered as follows: 4% said they were “very likely” to buy one and 14% “somewhat” likely.

As ChangeWave’s Andy Golub and Paul Carton point out, the results are strikingly similar to a 2005 survey about Apple’s switch to an Intel (INTC) chip. In fact, as the bar graphs above show, the percentages were precisely the same.

“Apple’s switch to the Intel chip widely broadened the Mac’s appeal to consumers and proved to be one of the great moves in Apple history,” they write. “Five years later, our ChangeWave survey shows similarly high levels of pre-launch excitement for the Mac Tablet.”

ChangeWave’s news on the Mac front, however, was not so good.

Although PC buying among the survey’s respondents was up sharply — thanks presumably to the release of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows 7 — MacBook purchases were down sharply.

A total of 15% of the respondents in the January survey bought a laptop in the past 90 days and 8% a desktop – the highest combined level of the past two years. But MacBook purchases in the same period dropped from 24% to 17%.

The two charts below tell the story.

Source: ChangeWave Research

Source: ChangeWave Research

The authors still expect Apple to report “solid” holiday MacBook sales in its quarterly earnings report next Monday. However, they add:

“The survey results also suggest that an X factor may be coming into play – – and that some potential Mac laptop buyers may have already begun delaying their purchases short term in order to wait for the ‘iSlate’ release before they make their final decision.”

It should be noted that respondents to ChangeWave surveys are not typical consumers. They are drawn, according the ChangeWave Alliance website, from “a worldwide group of 20,000 highly qualified business, technology, and medical professionals … who spend their everyday lives working on the frontline of technological change.”

You can read the full report on ChangeWave’s January survey here.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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