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The subjectivity of reliability
From a consumer perspective the prospect of shelling out hundreds of dollars on a laptop or PC can be a daunting task. The technological market is literally inundated with dozens of different manufacturers - each offering their own makes and models of personal computer. The choice and possibilities are endless and what makes for an exciting day out for the computer geek. For those less tech-savvy, the headaches can soon descend. Generally, consumers simply want their product to 'just work', and be able to perform simple tasks without error, crashing or giving the dreaded BSOD.
Tackling this question of reliability is not as easy as you might think. First thoughts regarding the reliability of technology in general prompts a need for a long lasting, steadfast piece of equipment with solid hardware and a good operating system, something which 'just works' - and many PC manufacturers can provide their consumer with exactly this.
When thinking of Apple as a brand; reliability certainly seems to be its forte. Their products are advertised as clean, simple and extremely fashionable, with a great emphasis upon 'out of the box' performance. No bundled trial software to un-install here. You may remember the recent adverts on television? Where actors play a Mac and a PC - the Mac being played by an enthusiastic, cool young professional and the PC being played by a tweed wearing bore. Certainly, it is of little doubt that Apple makes very good looking and fashionable computers. Reliability; well that is something which entirely depends on what purpose it is intended for. Generally, a computer is needed, most importantly for: web browsing, word processing, light media, personal documentation and perhaps the aforementioned along with some enterprise use. In which case (and I speak from years of experience) an Apple computer is perfect, however a PC certainly has the possibility to do exactly the same.
So, when posed the question: "are Apple computers reliable?" I am hard pushed to give a definitive answer. Reliability really depends on what the consumer expects their computer to do. Performance is personal.
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Apple's Strength - It lies in the core
Certainly, Apple personal computers seem to excel in certain areas and remain the popular choice for certain individuals. As a company, Apple seem to be growing and growing and selling many of their products. The iPod has rocketed Apple's profits and with the more recently released iPhone, Apple certainly has a massive chuck of the market tied up, so they must be doing something right. Articles all over the Internet rate Apple as amongst, if not the top of their field for consumer reliability: This PC World.com article provides impressive figures from an independent analytic organisation, from February 2010. The accolades also keep coming; according to this article by Information Today, Inc Apple also comes out on top for reliability for desktop and laptop users, following a consensus of Consumer Reports magazine readers.
Why such impressive reviews? Well, I believe it has a great deal to do with the benefits of being a manufacturer which designs their operating system (OS X) around the hardware within their computers. Apple is a very hardware and software driven company. A good desktop experience seems to be an important focus for their continued development of products. Whilst they may not utilise the most powerful processors, speediest RAM or the largest hard drives, Apple create performance in a different way. It all lies under the hood, or in the core, if you'll excuse the pun. Specifically this represents an effort to create a kind of internal harmony, and optimise the performance of the machine, using almost tailor made components. By designing an operating system which works in perfect harmony with the hardware driving the computer; Apple become very attractive to consumers.
Specifically, and because of this 'under the hood' optimisation, Apple becomes a very attractive option for the young professional. Industries which are design based, such as web design, CAD and those who tinker with Adobe's Photoshop all seem to choose the Apple as first choice. However on the flip side, Apples are unpopular in enterprise locations; Linux and Microsoft hold that monopoly.
Recently, my designer friend was given an Apple Power PC desktop as a present. It has an almost identical specification to his current desktop; however he believes that there was something a great deal smoother about the Apple. Stating that the programs on his Apple computer load and run faster and smoother than his other computer beforehand.
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The Bad Apple
Perhaps then, there is something in it. Apple's reviewers certainly seem to bring their computers out on top for reliability, however I would urge the consumer to always remember there are some bad eggs; one person's opinion or experience with Apple can be very different than another's.
Apple, like many other companies, has had some stumbles on their way to a harmonic user experience. Only last year a selection of Apple's iMac computers were riddled with potentially serious overheating problems, with some causing burn marks on the outer casing; there are also horror stories of PowerBook batteries developing faults and swelling, to the extent that they dent and damage their own casing. Perhaps these are a little serious to be noted, but they are listed because it is important to remember that even Apple - with its apparent shining consumer experience - sometimes gets it wrong.
The conclusion is that yes, Apple computers are reliable - good independent statistics support this belief. But as a consumer, statistics aren't the be all and end all. Remember, if you are thinking of buying a new computer, Apple or not - shop around and always have a chat with an expert to see if you can get a computer that has nice optimised performance for exactly what you want it to do, and try not to grab the first shiny thing. I've made that mistake before. Personally, I've owned a varied mixture of both Apple and other PCs and I have had good and bad experiences with both.