Apple's focus on transforming its consumer Macs into digital hubs is a strategy that reflects emerging consumer need, suggests a report from analyst firm Harris Interactive.

The analysts have announced the results of a poll that reveals US consumers increasingly turn to their computers for home entertainment.

The survey polled over 2,000 computer users aged 13 and above. Almost half those surveyed (43 per cent) claimed their computer to be more important than their TV, while nearly two-thirds said their computer outranks their CD player (63 per cent), stereo (61 per cent) or DVD player (59 per cent).

Changing ways Harris Interactive group president Hal Quinley said: "We were blown away with the number of people who are using the computer as their entertainment centre. The increased simplicity in using the computer to acquire, edit, organize and enjoy music, movies and photos is clearly driving this hot trend in 2003."

All Apple's consumer Macs ship with industry-leading software developed in-house to ensure Mac users can enjoy the cutting edge of using their computers to access, and to create, digital home entertainment. Apple was the first company to deliver such solutions to its users.

The front room Mac? The computer is moving from the office into the living room. More than half of those polled (63 per cent) use a computer in "group spaces" - such as living or family rooms - 28 per cent of 2,000 respondents use a computer in the living room.

Harris Interactive states: "People are becoming more confident about creating and enjoying their own entertainment content on computers." More statistics: 44 per cent are knowledgeable about CD burning; 48 per cent say the next computer they buy must have a DVD burner; 57 per cent said the abililty to edit personal photographs is important to them." Among other features, DVD authoring and image editing has been available with Macs since January 2001.

The analyst reports that consumers have become increasingly confident about digital media and are looking for new ways to enjoy computer entertainment. An impressive 69 per cent of respondents want access to their digital music collection from anywhere in their home (available in iTunes 4 using Rendezvous and AirPort).

Broadband and convergence technologies are also well-starred. 51 per cent of users want access to videos and photographs throughout the home; 60 per cent want to be able to access entertainment held on their computer without using a mouse or keyboard.

The poll was sponsored by Microsoft.