Apple to weather spending breakdown better than rivals?

Apple gains in poll of future spending plans, but fewer Americans in that pool

Saying that "it's going to be a very tough holiday season," the preference of potential buyers for Apple and Dell must be weighed against this increasingly smaller pool of consumers willing to part with their money. "It's almost like a split decision in the short term," Carton said. "It looks like Apple has some very solid demand, but you have to put those numbers in perspective. They're in a diminishing pie overall."

ChangeWave's numbers bore that out. Just 8 percent of those surveyed said that they planned to buy a laptop in the next 90 days, while only 6 percent said that they expected to purchase a desktop in that same period. While both were unchanged from September, they were also both down from the same time a year ago. In November 2007, 11 percent of those polled said that they planned to get a laptop, 8 percent said they planned to buy a desktop.

Longer term, however, Carton said Apple will come out stronger than ever, in part because of its ability to retain buyers, even in the face of terrible economic conditions, but also because of its iPhone, which he characterized as a "mini-computer" in its own right. In ChangeWave's polling, the iPhone came out the clear winner for those who said they were planning on buying a smart phone in the next three months: Apple's device accounted to 41 percent of the total.

"Apple will clearly come out of this as the biggest tree in the forest," Carton said. "They'll be in extraordinary shape compared to everyone else when things improve. I don't think that Apple can escape the enormity of this downturn in the short run, but in the big picture, I think [these numbers] are wonderful news for Apple.

"It's not easy to increase market share in one of the worst spending environments in years," Carton concluded.

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