Apple Tops Dell in 'Planned Holiday Purchases' for Desktop Computers

Blue RibbonApple topped Dell as the most popular brand for desktop computers in an annual survey of "planned holiday purchases" by research firm Parks Associates. This marks the first time Apple has claimed that spot for desktop computes, and it's something that should concern Michael Dell.

"Apple topped the list of intended brands for desktop purchases for the first time this year,” John Barrett, director of Consumer Analytics at Parks Associates, said in a statement. “In 2011 and 2012, Dell was the top desktop brand, but Apple has displaced it, making Apple now the most popular brand across even more key CE categories."

In this year's study, Apple ranked first, followed by Dell, HP, Acer, and Asus. Parks Associates didn't release specific numbers to go with those rankings. The results were taken from a nationwide survey of 2,500 U.S. broadband households fielded in Q4 of 2013.

Apple also placed first for planned purchases in tablets, followed by Amazon's Kindle, Samsung, Microsoft, and Acer. Apple TV was also first in "streaming media devices," where it beat Roku, Buffalo, D-Link's Boxee Bee, and Netgear.

Planned holiday purchases are a far cry from actual holiday purchases, something driven home by similar research conducted by Changewave. Apple's iPhone always figures prominently in Changewave "planned purchase" results, but actual market share in the U.S. lags behind those consistent results.

This point was emphasized by Mr. Barrett of Parks Associates, who notes, "Being the ‘preferred’ brand is certainly an advantage, but consumers can still change their minds. For example, with streaming media players, Apple is the preferred brand, but many shoppers ultimately end up getting a Roku."

In 2012's survey, 34 percent of 18-34 year old shoppers planned to buy an Apple TV, while 15 percent planned on buying a Roku. A later survey found that only 24 percent bought the Apple TV, while 29 percent bought a Roku.

That makes Apple somewhat of an aspirational brand, where lots people hope to buy it, but have to settle for something else for one reason or another. That seems even more likely in the category of desktop computers where the prices are much larger and the price differences even larger—Apple's cheapest Mac mini starts at US$599, while Dell has towers starting at $299.

In other words, don't expect Apple to be the #1 PC vendor this year. Or next. Or the year after. Or ever. Not even in just the U.S. But, Apple's Mac is gaining market share and gaining mind share at the expense of stalwarts like Dell and HP.

That's not so bad for a company that Michael Dell infamously said should shut its doors, sell its assets, and return whatever it got to its shareholders. Unfortunately for his own shareholders, Mr. Dell's product vision is every bit as good as his business advice.