The IBD/TIPP Home Computer Purchase Outlook index, which uses a 0-100 scoring system to measure buyer intent, jumped 17% to 23 in December from November. Only July's 23.4 had a higher mark in the last three years, Investor's Business Daily said.
An associated random telephone poll of over 1,000 Americans found that 27% were planning to buy a new home computer in the next six months; that was up from November's 22%.
Although Dell (at 43%) and Hewlett-Packard (13%) were voted the top two brands among likely buyers in December, Apple's 12% was the highest since IBD began tracking it in mid-2003. On notebooks only, Apple tied HP at 15%; Dell remained the top draw there as well, accounting for 47% of the votes.
For Dell and HP, the release of Windows Vista in late January should prompt sales; to get through the holiday selling season, Microsoft and computer markers have been offering Vista upgrade coupons to those who buy PCs now.
Apple, which last updated one of its systems in November, often announces new laptop or desktop models at San Francisco's MacWorld, which will be held Jan. 9-12.
In other poll results, IBD said that 53% of likely buyers were looking for a notebook, rather than a desktop computer. A year ago, only 43% said they would probably buy a laptop. The new numbers track well with other analysts, including IDC, which earlier this week noted that notebook sales continue to drive the global PC market.