Apple Ranked Most Reliable for 2008
December 22, 2008:
Apple Macs 'most reliable' ... and Vista gets better
For the third year running, Rescuecom Corporation has issued a reliability report on the top computer brands on sale in the States.
Rescuecom's approach is interesting. The firm's slogan is 'Fast and flawless 24/7' and it runs onsite computer repair and recovery services from a New York based call centre via franchisees across the US.
Each year, starting three years ago, it compares the percentage of each vendor's support calls with its US market share. The greater the difference between the two, the higher the score. For instance, Apple this year received its record-setting score of 700 because Macs made up only 1.1 per cent of all calls to Rescuecom, even though its estimated market share was 7.8 per cent for the year.
Apple Macs beat machines sold and supported by Panasonic, Lenovo, Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard. Apple, which had already taken the top spot last year, more than doubled its score from 2007 and again trounced the competition, this year posting a score 43 per cent higher than next-best Panasonic Corporation of North America.
Rescuecom CEO David Milman said the survey "takes into account not just the quality and reliability of the equipment, but also the quality of service." The two are equally important, he said. And remember that Rescuecom deals with users who are not using manufacturer warranties: "If a user is calling Rescuecom, that means they've abandoned the manufacturer's own support."
Ars Technica disputes this is the best methodology, however, saying "As we noted last year, Rescuecom's methodology isn't necessarily the best to determine reliability. For instance, how many people are just going to the nearest Apple Store for service? Most other PC makers don't have a network of retail stores to provide such service."
Apple's 2008 score soared because as its market share increased from 5 per cent of the US market last year to the 7.8 per cent in 2008. But the percentage of Mac-related calls to Rescuecom actually dropped, compared to 2007's - 1.4 per cent to this year's 1.1 per cent.
A large factor appears to be the support Apple provides at its retail stores. Milman referred to the free consultations that any Macintosh owner can schedule with tech support personnel at Apple's brick-and-mortar stores (there are none in New Zealand, but the Premium Resellers can fulfil similar roles). Dell didn't even figure on the list this year. Apparently, the PC maker has had problems meeting customer demand for some laptops.
Once it had a high-flying service and support reputation, but no longer. In August, according to Computerworld, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI), a barometer of customer satisfaction produced at the University of Michigan, pegged Dell's score down four points from the previous year.
"Dell isn't going anywhere," said Milman. "They still have good machines. But over the long run, you're more likely to have a problem with Dell."
Another factor is that some very strong players like Panasonic and Toshiba have entered the US market. Panasonic placed second on Rescuecom's list with a score of 489, and Toshiba, in fourth place with 299, are both new to the company's top five list. Milman said. "Dell's problem was that it didn't improve as much as [its] competitors." Two years ago, Dell was in fourth place, while last year, it came in fifth.
Although laptops are still rising as a category, Sony's fared badly. It placed seventh on Rescuecom's list with a score of 114. That's despite its US share growing 31 per cent last year - Rescuecom says its share of the repair calls grew at a similar pace. Milman: "Sony's laptops are built more on elegance and aesthetics rather than reliability."
Lenovo Group Ltd., which was second last year, slipped to third place in 2008. Lenovo's score improved in large part because it lost 10 per cent of its market share over the year perhaps because the marketing engine for Lenovo is no longer IBM, "But they kept their reliability strong."
Vista has improved, though. Rescuecom's Vista-related calls have dropped off. Milman hopes the new release of Windows 7 will embed all those improvements, making it reliable, too.
Netbooks, the small, low-priced laptops that are gaining market share as consumers increasingly look for bargains, are also starting to show on Rescuecom's radar. "When people call up and find out that it will take between $88 and $100 to fix [a netbook], they'll say, "But I only paid $400 for it," Milman said. "If you buy a cheap machine, expect it to perform as a cheap machine."
Some netbook sellers don't have a support infrastructure that can compete with the likes of Apple, HP or Dell, Milman added.
- Mark Webster mac.nz
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