Macs retake reliability ranking top spot

Reclaims lead as netbook maker Asus' score plunges

Apple reclaimed the top spot in the computer-reliability ranking of Rescuecom, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based technical support franchise, as netbook maker Asus' rating plummeted, Rescuecom's CEO said Saturday.

Apple's Macs, which led all rivals in Rescuecom's rankings during 2007 and 2008, ceded first place to PCs sold by Asustek Computer (better known as Asus) in the first half of 2009, falling as low as third in the first quarter, behind both Asus and Lenovo.

But Apple recaptured the top ranking for the third quarter with a reliability score of 374. Behind Apple were Lenovo and Asus with 320 and 166, respectively, followed by Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard in fourth and fifth place.

Rescuecom produces its scores by comparing the percentage of support calls represented by each vendor with each computer maker's U.S. market share. The greater the difference between the two, the higher the score. For example, although Apple's U.S. market share was 9% -- according to research firm IDC, whose data Rescuecom used to calculate its ratings -- Macs accounted for just 2.4% of the calls to Rescuecom. According to Rescuecom's reasoning, the higher scores indicate more reliable hardware and better support from the computer makers.

Apple's third-quarter rating was actually 5% lower than the 394 Rescuecom gave the company's computers for 2009's second quarter.

But Asus' decline was the big story. The Asian computer maker, which led Rescuecom's rankings for the first six months of the year, has seen its reliability rating plunge from a first-quarter high of 972 to 166 in the third quarter.

Asus' nose-dive was hardly a surprise, said David Milman, Rescuecom's CEO. "This is what we were waiting for on Asus, whether or not their reliability score would be maintained," said Milman in an e-mail. "Now that many of the netbooks by Asus have been out for a while, there is obviously a higher need for service."

Last March, when Asus first jumped to the top spot on Rescuecom's list, company president Josh Kaplan said Asus' ranking should be taken with a grain of salt, since it was based on a huge bump in sales during the last few months of 2008, when Asus' netbook sales took off. That, in turn, meant that Asus machines had been in users' hands for just several months, which could translate into fewer support calls.

"It will be interesting to see in the coming quarters if Asus will start coming down to the level of the other vendors, or can sustain it," Kaplan said at the time.

Apparently, it couldn't sustain its record rating, which in the first quarter Rescuecom measured as 972, nearly six times higher than its score in the third quarter. Asus' second-quarter rating was 416.

Toshiba's and HP's scores also fell from the second quarter, although less dramatically than Asus. Toshiba's reliability score was 165 in the third quarter, down 24%, while HP's third-quarter score of 134 was off 6% from the previous quarter.

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