Mac Users Rule Says Study

Despite holding a grip on only 8.2 percent of the online population in the U.S., Macintosh users reign supreme, according to a new report released Friday.

According to the survey from Internet metrics provider Nielsen//NetRatings , Mac users are more educated, live in higher income households and are more Web savvy than their PC-compatible counterparts because more than half of them have been using the Web for at least five years.

The survey was conducted shortly after Apple Computer released its new iMac. The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker is currently campaigning to encourage people to make the switch from PC to Mac, bringing attention to the activities of Mac users.

So how cool are Mac addicts?

New York and Milpitas, Calif.-based Nielsen//NetRatings also found Mac users are 58 percent more likely than the average surfer to build Web pages and 53 percent more likely to seek out product reviews.

The Apple elite also have a higher propensity to purchase online than the average surfer, with the most popular purchases falling into the computer hardware, software and music categories.

On the other hand, Mac owners are less likely to read horoscopes online or play any kind of online game.

“With above-average household income and education levels, the Mac population presents a very attractive target for marketers, both online and offline,” said NetRatings director and principal analyst TS Kelly. “Companies who reach Mac consumers will be able to get their messaging across to people who have been online longer, are more educated and purchase slightly more than the average Web surfer.”

Demographically, online Apple users are fairly representative of the online population as a whole. The most noticeable departure is level of education: 70.2 percent of Mac users online have a college or postgraduate degree, compared to 54.2 percent of the overall online populace.

Apple has positioned the iMac to place it in the center of the home as a digital hub, connecting digital devices such as the iPod, digital cameras, and digital video camcorders. This strategy puts it in the crosshairs of consumer electronics giant Sony , whose Vaio computers tie together Sony’s own suite of digital peripheral devices with Universal Serial Bus and FireWire connections.

Just as the QuickTime Player is the multimedia player of choice for this group, Nielsen//NetRatings said Windows Media Player, despite its availability for the Mac, is understandably the least used player.

Statistically speaking, QuickTime ranks below Windows Media Player and RealMedia Player when it comes to a streaming media platform. Nielsen//NetRatings recently found that Apple’s slice of the pie was a little larger than it historically had reported.

A group with such high marks is a desirable target for sure, says analysts. Mac computers tend to attract certain personality types – people who use their Macs very creatively, who stay loyal, and who have been familiar with technology for quite some time.

But the challenge for content publishers and vendors targeting this particular segment, said Nielsen//NetRatings, is having to go through a single gateway – Apple Computer, whether it means working with developers of QuickTime, the Apple Web site, or OS X.

Many companies and industries will choose to pursue other relationships instead, but analysts say those that do reach Apple consumers will score a direct hit.

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