PC Purchasing Trends: A Snapshot of the Biggest Winners and Losers

Includes: AAPL, DELL, GTW, HPQ
by: ChangeWave Research

By Paul Carton

“A picture is a poem without words.” (Horace)

Even the ancient Roman poets like Horace knew that information displayed visually can have an extremely powerful impact. Let’s test this ancient theory by viewing a handful of “pictures” illuminating up-to-the-minute trends in the consumer PC market.

But first, we need some context – for which we’ll rely on that tried-and-true method known as exposition.

During the week of March 8-15, we surveyed 3,686 ChangeWave Alliance members on their spending and shopping patterns, including a close-up look at their consumer PC purchasing trends.

For every respondent who said they had purchased a computer over the past 90 days, we asked them who was the manufacturer and what type of computer had they bought.

The responses were exceptionally positive for Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ).

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As the above “picture” demonstrates, both desktop and laptop purchases have been on the rise for H-P. In our latest survey (March 2007), the box maker has gained yet another 3 percentage points in both desktops (30%) and laptops (25%).

Now let’s view a stunningly different picture.

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Simply put, over the past 90 days Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) has seen a 2-point drop in both desktop and laptop market share among respondents.

These visuals should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that things aren’t yet well for Dell. Rather, over the past two quarters the percentage purchasing Dell PCs has fallen like Icarus (from 41% to 29% in desktops; and 33% to 26% in laptops).

A Pause for Apple?

After rising at a blistering pace since the January 2006 rollout of the Intel Mac, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is finally showing signs of a pause – with the percentage in our March survey buying laptops down 2 points and desktops down 1 point.

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Are we witnessing a slight pause here for Apple? Well, sort of. Virtually nothing goes straight up forever and there are seasonal factors at work here. In the aftermath of the Holiday season, it’s not surprising to see these consumer patterns for Apple. But trouble the likes of Dell? No way.

Our final “pictures” here are perhaps the most intriguing of all.

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Over the past 90 days, the percentage buying Gateway (GTW) desktops leaped from 6% to 9%, even as the percentage buying Gateway laptops cooled (from 7% in the January survey down to 5% in March).

But it’s the final picture of Gateway planned purchases that’s the most exciting of all.

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Among respondents who plan to purchase a PC in the next 90 days, Gateway desktops and laptops look ready to skyrocket – with desktops (14%) and laptops (8%) both increasing by 3 percentage pts.

The overall picture for Gateway is that of a company experiencing a sharp reversal of fortunes – since September 2006 the overall trend lines for Gateway market share have been pointing up. They are clearly capitalizing on Dell’s continuing woes.

By the way, among those planning to purchase a desktop or laptop in the next 90 days Hewlett-Packard also is trending higher (desktops up 3 pts; laptops up 3 pts).

And the Winners Are?

The Alliance survey results point to two big momentum winners going forward: Gateway and Hewlett-Packard.

And who’s the big loser? Well, the woes we picked up for Dell over the past 90 days look set to continue and even intensify over the next 90.

Based on our survey data on planned purchases going forward, Dell’s market share looks set to decline another 9-pts in desktops and 1-pt in laptops. So if you’re looking for a sign that Dell has bottomed, sorry, you’ll have to wait.

Two things you can be sure of – we’ll continue surveying the Alliance on consumer PC sales and we’ll continue telling you the story via pictures and words.

Jim Woods co-wrote this article.

This article summarizes the results of a recent ChangeWave Alliance survey. The Alliance is a research network of 10,000 business, technology and medical professionals who spend their everyday lives working on the front line of technological change. For more info on the ChangeWave Alliance, or if you are interested in joining, please click here.