Despite Apple's Popularity, Survey Says Holiday PC Sales to be Lackluster

A new poll finds a little less than a quarter of Americans will find a personal computer under their Christmas tree this December as consumers appear to be tightening their spending going into the holiday buying season. That could spell trouble for Apple Computer and a number of other PC makers who count on Christmas sales for almost one-third of their annual business.

The Investors Business Daily/TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics (IBD/TIPP) Home Computer Purchase Outlook Index for September shows of 1,017 people polled, only 24% said they were likely to buy a personal computer for home use before Christmas.

"This might spell trouble for Christmas," said Constantine Kambanis, an analyst for TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence. "I was surprised (by the results). I was expecting at least somewhat of an increase until December."

The all-important holiday season accounts for nearly one-quarter (22.83%) of the United Statesi annual retail sales.

Only 19% of those polled said they were "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to buy a new PC in the next six months. Thatis down 23% from August numbers. 72% said they would buy in four to six months. The intent to buy a PC in the September poll fell 25% among people ages 18 to 24, 21% among those 45 to 64 and 7% among people 25 to 44. It rose among senior citizens.

More bad news: PC demand among households earning more than US$75,000 a year fell to its lowest point since the poll was started. The index for that income level was down 37% from August.

Apple popularity high

Despite lackluster optimism among consumers to buy a PC this holiday season, Apple Computer remains one of the top three preferred brands in September.

44% who were asked named Dell as the brand they would mostly likely buy when ready to purchase, followed by Hewlett-Packard with 7%. Tied for third was Apple and Gateway (minus its recently acquired eMachines brand) with 5%. Apple had a 3% preferred brand ranking in August.

As for laptops, Apple placed second in a tie with Toshiba with 7% in terms of popularity. Dell was far out in front as the preferred laptop brand to buy with 42%.

Among likely PC buyers, 67% say they will buy a desktop model, 27% thinking a laptop and 6% were not sure.

Appleis Xmas estimates of real interest

High among the interest of investor analysts will be estimates by Apple executives of desktop and laptop Mac fiscal fourth quarter sales to be made this Wednesday. It is then that Apple will announce its fiscal fourth quarter results and discuss its holiday predictions in a conference call to be broadcast live via QuickTime at 5pm EDT. As always, The Mac Observer will provide in-depth coverage.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call currently expect Apple to earn 18 cents a share, on $2.1 billion in revenue, for its just-ending fiscal fourth quarter. During the same period a year ago, Apple earned 8 cents a share on revenue of $1.71 billion.