March 20, 2008 — University of Virginia students may display sabres on their sweatshirts and car bumpers, but more and more of them are sporting Apple logos on their laptops. For the fourth straight year, ownership of both Apple computers and iPods has risen sharply among U.Va. students, finds an annual technology inventory of entering students at U.Va.
Apple's hot streak started in 2004, when Mac ownership first shot up on the annual report. By this fall, when this year's inventory was taken, ownership of Apple computers had increased almost eightfold in the past five years, with one in four entering students owning a Mac, up from one in five last year.
Desktop computers have become almost extinct in recent years, as the popularity of laptops has grown steadily over the 11 years the inventory has been conducted. This year, 99 percent of students' computers were laptops, and less than 50 students out of the 3,117 who participated in the survey had desktop computers. Only four students reported not owning a computer.
The inventory has been conducted annually since 1997 by student computer advisers, offering a clear picture of technology trends among students. That information "frequently guides IT decision-making," noted Teresa Lockard, director of U.Va.'s Computing Support Services.
Apple's rising tide may be led by the iPod, some version of which is owned by three out of four first-years, up from two out of three last year. Just 10 percent of students carry an MP3 player made by any other manufacturer.
The growing popularity of Apple computers is echoed in sales figures from the University's two Cavalier Computers stores. Approximately half of incoming students purchase a computer through U.Va.'s Desktop Computing Initiative, whereby Cavalier Computers specially configures each new computer to be "ready-to-go" for use at U.Va. (with proper network settings, up-to-date antivirus software, etc.). Of the 1,551 such purchases this fall, slightly less than one-third were Macs (447), up 32 percent compared to the previous year, reported Jeff Bunts, director of Cavalier Computers.
As for computers sold without the U.Va.-specific configuration, Cavalier Computers moved 975 Macs in calendar year 2007, accounting for 40 percent of new computer sales in 2007, up from 29 percent of total sales in calendar year 2006, noted manager Scott Layne.
Microsoft continues to dominate the operating system battle. Among all students who own computers, a solid majority (60 percent) run the newest version of the Windows operating system — Windows Vista, first released in January 2007 — with another 12 percent running the older Windows XP. Thus, the Mac OS X has more than double the number of users as Windows XP, while Windows Vista more than doubles those on Mac OS X.
Mobile phones are ubiquitous on Grounds, carried by 95 percent of students, but very few of those are so-called "smartphones" — phones with advanced capabilities such as e-mail, basic word processing, Internet browsers and/or audio and video players.
Among the 5 percent of students who report owning a smartphone, just over a third are Apple iPhones (45), followed — in order of popularity — by devices from Blackberry (39), phones utilizing the Windows Mobile operating system (23), and Palm OS-based phones (18). Since the iPhone has only been available since June 29, 2007, just a few months before the survey was conducted, while the other types of smartphones have been sold for years, Apple has quickly jumped ahead in that segment.
Only 7 percent of the first-year students brought a video game system with them, but that number was up by 30 percent compared to 2006. However, since 80 percent of high school-student households have at least one video game platform, according to a 2007 Neilson report, the U.Va. inventory results imply that many entering students are leaving the consoles at home.
Data from more than 30,000 students surveyed over the past 11 years are available on the U.Va. Web site, presented in graphical form at: