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Half of Potential Mac Customers Choose Apple

By Blane Warrene MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jun 17, 2004 1:45 PM PT

A recently published survey reported that as many as 50 percent of PC buyers who considered a Mac over the last 12 months actually ended up purchasing one.

Half of Potential Mac Customers Choose Apple

According to TechnoMetrica, a market research firm that advises IBM, Volvo and MasterCard, among others, Apple has the potential to increase its market share from its current 3 percent. However, Apple has to figure out a way to exploit its solid brand recognition among consumers so that consumers view Apple as a viable PC option, explained TechnoMetrica technology analyst Constantine Kambanis.

"Apple's name is quite strong, and many people think of Apple when they think of computers, but it seems likely that a significant segment of those who consider buying an Apple are unaware of what an Apple actually is. Once they find out, many of them end up buying a Dell," Kambanis told MacNewsWorld.

The Market Breakdown

The study, Hidden Opportunity for Computer Manufacturers, showed that from May 2003 to April 2004, nearly 26 million Americans purchased a computer. Of those purchasers, 73 percent opted for desktops over laptops, while 56 percent were replacing an existing system.

In addition, the study said that over one-third of replacement purchasers were upgrading computers after three to four years -- although a 5 percent minority reportedly were replacing PCs over 11 years of age.

Because a majority of computer users replace their systems within six years, the potential for increased sales among PC manufacturers -- including Apple -- could prove to be substantial, Kambanis said.

At the same time, 38 percent of those surveyed cited price as their number-one driving factor. Although consumer-level Macs provide users with some features not found in a bargain-basement PC, many purchasers either are unwilling to pay for that additional functionality or have their needs met by a less expensive machine.

"Apple can probably make significant headway in capturing more of the overall market -- provided it can introduce a product that will be on par with [low-end offerings] from Dell or eMachines," Kambanis said.

Right on Point -- Price or Otherwise

In an interview with MacNewsWorld, Gordon Haff, senior analyst at Illuminata, believes the survey is right on point.

"Certainly low price ends up being a big factor in Dell purchases. You get some conversions away from Apple because there are folks who really want -- or at least are interested in -- Macs but end up going with the lowest price," he said.

For his part, Gartner senior analyst George Shiffler admitted he feels a personal connection with the survey because he is in the market for a new PC.

"I have to admit, I am seriously considering Dell," he told MacNewsWorld. "They have notoriously good service that attracts me."

Apple or Dell?

Although 50 percent of potential Apple customers ended up purchasing an Apple, 22 percent purchased a Dell instead, the study showed. The study also noted that, although Apple sold 900,000 computers over the length of the study, it could have potentially sold 800,000 more during that time period.

Still Shiffler and Haff each pointed out that Apple ranks second to Dell in converting potential buyers into customers.

"Apple still gets a high conversion rate because its customers tend to be loyal and there aren't any direct alternatives," Haff said.

"Apple is in good shape here," Shiffler said, "Once someone buys an Apple, they stick with it due to the functionality" the Mac offers.

In addition, Apple "will be in taking sales from other vendors, or converting those customers, as these PC replacement windows open," Shiffler said.

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