Macs plummet in Rescuecom reliability ranking

Loses more than 50% of its '08 score, now trails Asus and Lenovo

For the first time, Apple Inc. dropped out of the top spot in the computer-reliability ranking of Rescuecom Corp., a Syracuse, N.Y.-based chain of service shops, and ended in third place behind a pair of Asian computer makers that specialize in laptops.

Apple's Macs, which led all comers in Rescuecom's rankings during 2007 and 2008, were beaten in the first quarter of 2009 by machines sold by Asustek Computer Inc. (better known as Asus) and Lenovo Group Ltd. Following Apple in fourth through sixth place were Toshiba, Acer and Hewlett-Packard, respectively.

Rescuecom generates its scores by comparing the percentage of each vendor's support calls with its U.S. market share. The greater the difference between the two, the higher the score. Higher scores, said Rescuecom President Josh Kaplan, indicate more reliable hardware and better support from the vendor.

For instance, although Apple's U.S. market share was 6.8%, Macs accounted for only 2.1% of the calls to Rescuecom, producing a score of 324. However, that was dramatically down from Apple's 2008 record-setting score of 700, a number that reflected an even higher market share, 7.8%, but an even lower percentage of support calls, just 1.1%.

"I can only hypothesize why Apple has fallen," said Kaplan. "Its market share has been increasing over time, so more people than ever own a Mac. But Apple's main channel of support is from the Apple retail stores. As it becomes harder to make an appointment at an Apple store or the wait for support there is longer, more are choosing to go with third-party support."

Tops for the first three months of the year was Asus, best known as a maker of mini-notebooks, dubbed "netbooks." Its score of 972 -- a Rescuecom record -- was derived by comparing its market share of 1.6% with its call share of only 0.2%.

But Kaplan cautioned against reading too much, too quickly, into the company's ranking. "Asus' shipping numbers skyrocketed in the last few months of 2008," he said, with many of the shipments involving the popular Eee line of netbooks, such as the Eee 1000, which debuted in August 2008.

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