Survey highlights Mac vs. PC buying in back to school shopping trends

More than 4,000 shoppers surveyed give you their outlooks on Mac, PC, tablets, and more for Fall semester 2015.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor on

If you think that college students between the ages of 18 and 24 are looking for cool, bleeding edge, super duper, expensive technology to begin or to continue their studies, you'd be very wrong. Truth is that they're looking for reliable, smart, and traditional. Surprised? I was.

When I read a survey headline, I'm usually not surprised by the results. But the results of this survey, conducted by CivicScience, where 4,399 U.S. adults polled from June 30 to July 27, 2015 are different. Some of the numbers really surprised me when I read them. For example, 31 percent of the respondents surveyed said that their next computer will likely be a Windows laptop or desktop, while only 13 percent said they will buy a Mac laptop or desktop. If that's not surprising to you, then maybe the fact that 42 percent of the respondents said that they have no plans to buy a new computer is.

A total of 14 percent said that they're going to buy various other computer formats such as iPads, Chromebooks, Android tablets, or Linux computers.

However, the numbers change when you filter for the college age range of 18 to 24. Both Windows computers and Mac computers rise by 7 percent each for this age group. And alternative computer platforms also drop by 2 percent.

Next personal computer purchase (All Adults):

  • 42% - None/No plans to purchase
  • 31% - Windows
  • 13% - Mac
  • 14% - Other

Next personal computer purchase (Adults 18-24):

  • 38% - Windows
  • 29% - None/No plans to purchase
  • 20% - Mac
  • 12% - Other

So, who's buying iPads? From this survey, if you're buying an iPad, you're likely to be between the ages of 35-44, educated, professional, and relatively affluent. Those numbers make sense if you note that only 6 percent of those surveyed are buying iPads. For light computing, iPads are portable, and have a long battery life, but are somewhat of a status symbol at several hundred dollars per unit.

Windows buyers are more likely to be in the STEM professions in the Associate's or Bachelor's degree levels, while Mac buyers are in the arts, humanities, or business, and have attained a graduate or professional degree.

Mac and iOS device buyers are also more affluent than those who buy Windows. Of course Apple products are significantly more expensive than those that use Windows. The decision is easy for those who are on a budget, when your choices are between a $2,000 Macbook Pro and a $400, or less, Windows 10 laptop from a major PC manufacturer.

College is tremendously expensive. In fact, it's ridiculous. The price of college is so disparate from the reward (salary) that you get from it, I'm surprised that so many people still attend. Unfortunately many are going into deep debt for their disappointing future earning capabilities. So it's no wonder that many opt for less expensive technology. If you do a pure numbers comparison between Mac and PC, you could buy a new $500 Windows laptop every year of college for the price of a single Macbook Pro. And at the end of four years, you'll still have to buy a new computer with which to start your new career. You don't have to be a STEM major to figure that one out.

So what's the grand takeaway from this research?

You and technology manufacturers should be aware of the following conclusions from this survey:

  • People aren't buying tablet computers to replace their PCs, so the whole post-PC era thing is nonsense.
  • College students buy Windows two to one over Mac. Professionals buy Windows almost three to one over Mac.
  • And 30 to 40 percent aren't buying anything at all in any age range.

What do you think of the survey? When you buy technology, what do you buy? Compare yourself to the results and let me know.

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