Around the middle of last week, Global Equities Research’s Trip Chowdhry set off a firestorm when he downgraded the value of Microsoft’s stock after doing some “research” about the computers college freshman were going off to school with this fall.  After surveying an unknown amount of students at a mere five schools, he came to the conclusion that 70 percent of all freshman were heading to school with some form of Mac computer.  This “news” sent Microsoft stock down 2.5 percent on Wednesday morning on the stock market.

Luckily Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune dug a bit deeper and found that Student Monitor, a company specializing in tracking the interests of college students, had done a similar, and far more in-depth study.  Twice a year Student Monitor interviews 1,200 students for 55-minutes across 100 different campuses, and while it has found that interest on Macs is definitely on the rise, it is nowhere near the numbers Mr. Chowdhry touted.  Of those with a laptop, 27 percent had a Mac, and amongst desktop owners the number was significantly lower at 14 percent.

Where the numbers should brighten Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ day is those that are planning to buy a new laptop in the near future.  Of those polled, 14 percent said they were intending to buy a computer in the next 12 months, and of those, 14 percent said they would go with a laptop.  Drilling down from that number even further, 47 percent said they were planning to purchase a Mac.

Mac Purchase Intent

This is interesting due to the fact it is a complete reversal of a mere five years ago when Del laptops sat at the exact same number.  What the cause of this sudden extreme reversal is anyone’s guess.  While MacBooks and MacBook Pros may be nice computers, the significantly larger cost barrier to entry at a time of such economic turmoil is a bit surprising to say the least.

You do not to keep in mind that this is a percentage, of a percentage of a percentage type number.  They surveyed 1,200 students, 168 (14 percent) plan to buy a new computer in 12 months.  Of those, 146 (87 percent) plan to buy a laptop, and of those, 69 (47 percent) plan to buy a Mac.  Not as impressive when you realize it’s 69 people out of 1,200 that are intending to purchase one of Apple’s laptops, but still interesting none the less.

As for Mr. Chowdhry, is it any wonder I don’t like analysts?

What say you?  Are you in the market for a new Mac?