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Letter to the Editor
Copyright © 1997 to 7am News
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From: "Steven Price" <prices@tls.co.nz>
To: editor@aardvark.co.nz
Subject: TL Systems remains impartial
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 1997 20:21:36 +1200

FOR PUBLICATION

To the Editor, Aardvark

Dear Bruce

Re: the article the top 20 isn't the top 20 at all.

It should be noted that the weightings applied to the Cheap, Fast Pentium PCs was totally different to those applied to the Top 20 PCs.

That is:
Cheap, Fast:
(speed 35%, price 15%, warranty 15% features 35%)

Top 20:
(speed 20%, price 20%, warranty 25%, features 35%)

I offered our system for comparison in the Cheap, Fast PC category but was told by PC World that it was not an option since we were already in the Top 20 category. That is, PC suppliers who did not qualify for the Top 20 because of low IDC rankings were being given an opportunity to show off their wares... which is fair enough I suppose. If you do the real maths on the TL Systems PC you will find that we would have done exceedingly better than is implied by the review.

A problem occurs in this case when people compare two different sets of ratings which have been normalised with different weightings.

Basically you can get whatever result you want based on how you weight speed/price/warranty/features.

So how do I think a PC should be rated...

Simple really

  • Speed:
    You rate speed on a publicly available performance test suite which utilises a cross section of the standard applications and weights them according to the market's use of these. the Ziff-Davis suite is probably the best but maybe the PC Worldbench suite would be equally as good if everyone could get their hands on it.

  • Price:
    You make sure that system vendors give the prices for all system options so that each system can be easily price compared. That is, what's the use of comparing the price of a 15" based PC with a 17" based PC. So if the reviewer could stipulate the required hardware (just like any sane customer) then a proper price comparison could be had.

  • Warranty:
    "Like other things in life", the length is very important but the quality of service isn't to be ignored. Realistically all a customer asks for is that if something goes wrong at sometime in the life of the PC that someone "will be around" in good time to fix the problem. Whether it is in the warranty period or not isn't the most important issue to the customer.
    If you had to put a number on warranty ability I would rate firstly on the service reputation of the company in the market (survey information). I think Graham Penn from IDC would be more than pleased to conduct a survey (simple questions.. who's PC's do you use and do you think that their service is better than others or worse than others in the market?)
    Then hire an insurance actuary / statistics major to work out the value of each warranty rating taking into account the probability of the company not being around to service the warranty. That is if a company is relatively new or has low market capitalisation then there would be higher risk.

  • Features:
    Given that all options are stipulated by the reviewer this area would come down to a matter of design. Now forgetting for a moment that we are all technical geeks, what a user should really be concerned about is what a PC looks and sounds like, how easy it is to use, how up to date it is and any additional functions that it has. So how do you put a number on features? I think the simple answer is that you don't even try... You leave it up to the reviewer to mention properties of the PC which he/she found good or bad.

If PC World or PC Magazine would like to follow these guidelines and publish the scores for each category I am sure the public would weight things according to their own criteria and come up with an accurate outcome. Let us not forget who we are trying to accommodate.

Yours sincerely
Steven Price
TL Systems


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