The jarring combination of Microsoft's radical reinvention of Windows with old-style hardware caused the average satisfaction score of PC makers to slip in the last year, a pollster said today.
Meanwhile, Apple again took top honors by tying its own 2011 record in computing device customer satisfaction as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a consumer survey that's tracked opinions on technology for 18 years.
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Apple's score of 87 -- out of a possible 100 -- was up one point from 2012 and seven points higher than its closest competitor.
The ACSI survey polled more than 2,700 Americans in April and May, asking them to rate their experiences with recently purchased devices -- desktop and notebook personal computers, as well as tablets -- sold by Apple, Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba. The rest of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) were lumped into a secondary "All Others" category in ACSI's results.
With a score of 80, HP was Apple's nearest rival; other OEMs collected scores between 76 and 79.
Although both HP and Toshiba increased their ACSI ratings by a point compared to 2012's poll, Dell and Acer dropped two points and All Others fell four points. The average of all those, other than Apple, fell by a point, a decline of 1.3 percent over the prior year.
David VanAmburg, the managing director of ACSI, did not point a finger at Microsoft's Windows 8 for the slip in PC satisfaction -- as have some industry analysts -- but acknowledged it was a contributor.
"It's not so much Windows 8 itself as the incongruity between the operating system and most of the devices it's sold with," said VanAmburg. "There's a disconnect between what Windows 8 is touting and the desktop and laptop environment. I'd call it a misalignment of expectations."
VanAmburg was referring to Microsoft's pitch that Windows 8 is a "touch-first" OS that works best on touch- and gesture-enabled hardware, like tablets, and the inability of hardware makers to capitalize on that either on tablets or touch-ready notebooks.
Choices in the latter have been relatively skimpy, and prices have been considerably higher than for laptops that rely on a mouse -- or a touchpad -- and a keyboard. "If [OEMs] could get to lower prices on touch, it could be a whole different ball game," said VanAmburg, echoing Microsoft's own belief.
The lower scores overall for traditional PC makers, and the slip in ratings for the likes of Dell and Acer, neither of which has scored in tablets, are expressions of consumers' search for something more than PCs can provide, said VanAmburg.
"What we're seeing in our data is the same as what we're seeing in PC sales, that the trend toward greater mobility continues to gather steam," VanAmburg said. "Mobility is so attractive [it's] driving people away from PCs."