RealTime IT News

Survey Sees Rocky Road Ahead for PC Sales

IT spending downturn
With consumer spending on the wane, PC makers such as Dell, HP and Apple will find the next few months more challenging than ever, according to a new survey from ChangeWave Research.

Just 4 percent of the consumers polled by ChangeWave said they plan to buy a desktop in the next 90 days, while 6 percent said the same for a laptop.

"That's the lowest we've seen," Paul Carton, research director at ChangeWave, said during a Web conference this afternoon. "It's a tough environment for PC makers."

It's further troubling news for the industry following a grim fourth quarter that saw PC sales eke out just the barest amount of growth. A January Gartner report found that fourth-quarter 2008 worldwide PC sales reached 78.1 million, up just 1.1 percent over the same period in 2007. For the year, worldwide PC sales rose 6.1 percent.

The latest findings also come amid a wider drop-off in consumer spending. ChangeWave said 64 percent of its respondents said they expect to spend less over the next 90 days, a four-point increase since an earlier ChangeWave study in January.

"These are the worst results we've had in our surveys in many years," Carton said.

Still, not all PC makers are likely to be suffering equally, ChangeWave found.

In the next 90 days, 30 percent of the survey's 3,115 respondents said they planned to buy an Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) laptop -- a three-point increase since an earlier ChangeWave survey in January. The company's desktops may not be faring as well, however, with purchase intent dropping 2 percent from last month, down to 26 percent.

"Apple is muddling through going forward," Carton said.

But Apple's larger competitors may not be so lucky. When it comes to HP, the leader in worldwide PC sales, 28 percent of consumers said they planned to make desktop purchase in the next 90 days -- unchanged from ChangeWave's findings in January. But just 22 percent are looking to buy a HP laptop, a dip of 1 percent from the prior month.

Dell, meanwhile, experienced a 2-percent drop in purchase intent for both notebooks and desktops. Respondents indicated their plans to buy a Dell desktop at 32 percent, while the No 2. PC maker's laptops came in at 26 percent.

The PC spend indicators align with customer satisfaction poll results, according to ChangeWave.

[cob:Special_Report]Apple leads satisfaction among survey respondents, with 81 percent indicating they were very satisfied with a purchase from the company. Meanwhile, users reported similar satisfaction with a Dell product 55 percent of the time, while HP came in at 52 percent.

Yet there remain bright spots for the largest PC makers. Netbook sales, for instance, remain stable. ChangeWave said 17 percent of consumers were planning to buy a small form-factor PC during the next 90 days.

Dell, which has struggled to reclaim its share of the PC market after losing the top spot to HP, is aiming to reap the benefits of that segment, which is seen as one of the strongest for PC makers. In September, it joined the frenzy around ultraportable, low-cost notebooks with the launch of an 8.9-inch netbook.

Dell has additional plans for capitalizing on mobile computing. The company's CEO, Michael Dell, said in a recent interview that he expects the coming years to produce an emerging class of devices that fill in the screen-size gaps between notebooks and devices like Apple's iPhone -- and hinted strongly that Dell has plans to play in the space.