Apple used to be viewed largely as a brand for artists and visual thinkers. However, in recent years Apple has made major gains with the tech crowd as the MacBook Pro has become the Mercedes of laptops, the iPhone has become the most popular platform for mobile software developers, and the iPad has launched a new computing form factor of touch-based tablets.

But, there’s evidence that Apple is losing some of its luster with techies. The company’s stubborn refusal to support Adobe Flash (which wins props with some IT pros but breaks a lot of Web sites), its draconian and ambiguous review policy for the App Store, and it’s strong-arm legal tactics with HTC and Gizmodo are having a negative impact on how young, tech-savvy professionals view Apple, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune explains:

“The index tracks the ‘buzz’ of some 850 consumer brands – including Apple – by interviewing 5,000 people every weekday and asking them ‘If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, was it positive or negative?’ Scores can range from 100 to -100. As the chart above shows, Apple’s buzz with the key 18- to 24-year-old demographic reached its 2010 peak on March 18 with a score of 80.2. Since the start of April it’s been cooling off, and on Thursday it stood at 66.1.”

Here’s the chart:

Here’s a video clip of The New York Times’ Nick Bilton and ABC’s John Berman discussing the report and the issue of Apple losing it’s cool factor:

Also, after admitting that he’s an avid Apple customer, John Stewart of The Daily Show recently mocked Apple for its treatment of Gizmodo [WARNING: This video clip has strong language]:

Of course, we also got news this week that Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2010) sold out in just eight days, so it appears that there may be more software developers jumping on the bandwagon than are jumping off.

In other news, a report from IDC showed Apple’s iPhone made a major surge in global market share in smartphones in the first quarter. The report showed Apple is now third in global shipments of smartphones with 16.1% share (up from 10.9% a year ago). After seeing the report, my colleague Larry Dignan, ZDNet Editor in Chief, predicted, “Apple is going to catch RIM for that No. 2 global spot in smartphones. Give it 3 quarters max.” Part of Apple’s strength in smartphones has to do with the fact that IT departments and businesses are getting more comfortable supporting or even deploying iPhones.

The bottom line is that there are conflicting signals about Apple’s perception among IT leaders and tech-savvy business professionals. Where do you stand? Take our poll and then join the discussion below.