More US consumers plan to buy a Mac in the next 90 days than any other brand, according to a ChangeWave Research survey of over 4,000 US Americans conducted earlier this month.

Of the consumers polled by ChangeWave Research who said they expect to buy a personal computer in the next three months, 32 per cent plan to purchase a Mac. The closest rival was Dell, which accounted for 28 per cent of planned purchases.

Apple was also the only vendor whose plan-to-buy share increased from July in both desktops and laptops. In the former, Apple gained 3 percentage points, climbing to 30 per cent from 27 per cent last month. On the laptop front, Apple increased it share by 2 points, reaching 32 per cent, compared to 30 per cent in July.

Both the desktop and laptop numbers were records for Apple in the long-running ChangeWave consumer spending surveys.

Dell's desktop share, meanwhile, increased by three points, climbing to 28 per cent. But the company lost 4 points in the laptop race, down to 28 per cent from 32 per cent in July.

Hewlett-Packard Co., however, was decidedly in decline. Planned HP desktop purchases were off 3 points from the month before, down to 17 per cent, while planned notebook buys dropped 4 points to 20 per cent.

"Apple's reached the tipping point," said Paul Carton, ChangeWave's research director. "Where the early adopters and the discretionary spenders were leading the charge, now as we go into the 30 per cent range [for planned purchases], the change to Apple looks permanent. What we have in the end, actually we're sort of there now, is that buying an Apple is as normal as buying a Dell or an HP [computer] in America."

Carton said Apple's consumer satisfaction scores and the "halo effect" of the iPhone would continue to pump up the company's sales. Apple trounced rivals such as Dell, HP, Acer and Lenovo on customer satisfaction, he said. In the August survey, 81 per cent of people who had bought a Mac in the past 90 days said they were "very satisfied" with the purchase. In comparison, 58 per cent of Dell buyers, 57 per cent of HP buyers, 53 per cent of Acer buyers and 48 per cent of Lenovo buyers said they were similarly satisfied.

"You want to see what a halo effect looks like? Take a look at last year," said Carton, 6.5-point jump in the planned purchase share last summer, immediately after the first-generation iPhone debuted.

That halo effect continues, Carton said. In the August survey, 17 per cent of those polled said that they were more likely to buy a Mac desktop or laptop because of the iPhone 3G, the model Apple launched last month.

"This year's halo isn't to the degree of last year's, but in this economic environment and the fact that Apple's hitting its biggest numbers ever, means it's enough to see Apple significantly outperform expectations going forward," said Carton.

"Everything else equal, Apple's outperforming in an incredibly difficult consumer spending environment," Carton observed.

During Apple's most recent quarter, which ended June 30, the company sold a record 2.5 million Macs.