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By Paul Carton

By Paul Carton

ChangeWave’s latest Corporate IT survey shows U.S. tech spending in the process of rapidly stabilizing – with a dramatically improved outlook for the 3rd quarter.

The findings also point to the first uptick in business PC spending in 18 months, with a 4-pt jump in the percentage of respondents who say their company will buy laptops (71%) and desktops (68%) in the 3rd quarter.

But what does this mean for the major PC manufacturers – and for the upcoming release of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 7?

A Closer Look at Dell, Apple and Hewlett-Packard

Dell: Corporate sales account for nearly 80% of Dell’s (NASDAQ:DELL) PC business – and almost without exception Dell has been losing market share in our ChangeWave corporate surveys since it peaked back in August 2005. The current survey, however, shows a slight 2-pt uptick for Dell in planned 3rd quarter desktop (31%) and laptop (30%) purchases.

All told, this represents Dell’s first rise in the business PC market in nearly 4 years – but we caution that this is coming after Dell hit its all-time low in our previous two surveys.

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) corporate PC market share continues to grow, with 9% of respondents saying their company plans on buying Apple laptops and 7% desktops next quarter – up 1-pt and 2-pts respectively.

Both numbers represent all-time highs for Apple in the business computer market.

The data comes on the heels of our latest corporate smart phone results, which also show Apple hitting an all-time high in future market share among planned corporate purchasers – although this growth in iPhone sales is occurring primarily in small- to medium-sized companies.

Hewlett-Packard’s (NYSE:HPQ) corporate PC sales appear stable going forward – with planned laptop purchases (16%) up 1-pt and desktops (16%) unchanged since our February survey. Note that about 70% of H-P’s sales come from outside the U.S. – while our ChangeWave surveys focus primarily on the U.S. market.

Microsoft’s Windows 7 Operating System

Microsoft (MSFT) recently announced that Windows 7 should be available before the end of the calendar year, just in time for the holiday season. With business PC purchases finally rising, this would appear to be an optimal time to launch – but is the new OS ready for primetime?

In our latest survey, 118 Microsoft Windows 7 beta testers were asked a series of questions on the new platform, beginning with their overall satisfaction with the MSFT operating system:

A total of 34% said they were Very Satisfied and 58% Somewhat Satisfied – a good overall rating, although the Very Satisfied percentage did decline 10-pts since our February survey (note that the Somewhat Satisfied group rose 11-pts during the same time period).

Most importantly, the Windows 7 satisfaction rating is much higher than the initial reaction to Vista in a February 2007 ChangeWave survey – when only 10% of Beta testers said they were Very Satisfied.

Window 7 Likes. One reason for the more enthusiastic reaction to Windows 7 lies in the introduction of a virtualized “XP Mode” – which is essentially a way to run Windows XP within the Windows 7 environment. Importantly, nearly half of beta testers (49%) say this option makes their company more likely to upgrade to Windows 7 in the future.

Other features respondents like about Windows 7 include its speed, lower system requirements and improvements in overall performance.

As Beta tester BRA03904 puts it, “Windows 7 is cleaner, faster, and has a better user interface.” RGL19684 adds “It comes with a good selection of hardware drivers, and compatibility does not appear to be a big problem.”

At a minimum, most testers agree Windows 7 is a big improvement over Vista. JNR10054 sums it up as “Windows 7 is fast and uses less memory than Vista."

Windows 7 Dislikes. The three biggest dislikes uncovered by Beta testers to date are system instability, incompatibility issues and Windows 7’s big learning curve.

SLM00554 finds the new OS is “more complex, less intuitive, and the system crashes in CADD mode."

RKZ37471 says he is having difficulties "forwarding certificates to other applications – requiring additional sign-on software," while INT8286 says using the new virtual XP mode is "very cumbersome."

CUR09136 finds that in terms of training, "changes in the interface are always hard on those who have used Windows for years, and Windows 7 has lots of user interface changes."

Bottom Line

In comparison to Vista, the initial reports on Microsoft Windows 7 appear promising for the software giant. Moreover, the timing of the Windows 7 launch is fortuitous – coming at what looks to be the tail end of the recession and after the first recorded uptick in planned corporate PC purchases in 18 months.

Andy Golub co-wrote this article

Source: Corporate PC Purchases Rising: Will This Help Windows 7?