Comparing PCs to Cars

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Knowing how much all of you enjoy car-computer analogies (not!), let me offer another. When a person buys a Honda Civic, they don't expect it to drive like a BMW. They do expect it to run, however, especially on the first day of ownership.

Yesterday, I shared my latest computer shopping adventure. I bought a new Toshiba laptop with Windows 7 on board for $329. Within hours, it had crashed twice and given me the blue screen of death once. Just another day with Windows.

The comments section lit up. Clearly, I struck a nerve:

$329??? You certainly get what you paid for. What you paid for was low quality hardware. Don't blame Windows...  I think this is a case of Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair ie User Error.
     —Maria

I cringe when people use the old if a PC were a car adage.  Mostly because they don't ever know how to make the comparison properly... Sorry dear, you and many people don't get it. Computers aren't Lego sets where everything always fits together nicely. This stuff is complex. You installed software other than what it came with, possibly non-Ms software which is OK, and then the computer crashed and you blindly blame MS? 
     —BlkBam

Windows 7 is not clunky.  Oh, wait, you got it for $329?   Maybe it didn't have a hard drive. Or maybe no memory.  A main stream good laptop would/should cost like 700 to 800.  And go spend 1400 or 1500 if you want to compare it to Apple.  Be fair. Be balanced. Stop bashing.
     —BBaker

Interesting points. Let me say this about that, however.

I think it's a fair expectation that a new laptop, albeit cheap, should run seamlessly for more than a day. I believe any new product should work flawlessly when you first buy it. Call me crazy, call me madcap but folks, this is how real people, and real customers, think.

Who says you can't compare apples to oranges? When you're talking fruit, you absolutely can. It is fair to compare a $1000+ Mac to a $300 Windows machine. PC shoppers do it every day. They have to; both are on the spectrum of buying options. What would not be fair is having the same expectations for the bottom and top of that price range (just like comparing Honda to BMW). Every consumer has to balance their own priorities and make their peace with their choices.

That being said, bargain shoppers don't deserve to be short-changed on basic functionality or service. I do not expect my $300 Toshiba to perform like a Mac anymore than I expect my Toyota to purr like a Porshe. I do expect both my Toshiba with Windows 7 and Toyota to perform consistently. I don't think a cheap price is a reasonable excuse for a totally spotty performance. If you can't sell something that works right at that price, then don't go there.

I have been using Windows since the Jurassic period, by the way. I play around with computers of all price points all the time. I have for years. I went through the "smoking rig" phase when I had to have all the top of the line specs (I just outgrew it). Over the years and presently, it has aways been my experience that Windows (regardless of the hardware that it sits upon) tends to barf from time to time. I tend to think the blue screen of death might just be responsible for the conception of at least one of my kids (again, how badly can I hate Microsoft when I have them to thank for my punkin'?).

I daresay that a $800 or even $1,800 PC with Windows 7 is just as likely to crash from time to time as my Kia—I mean Toshiba. I am not a hardware or software engineer, but I'm not a complete tech idiot. If I can't set up a Windows machine without crashing it, then what chance do the millions of non-tech consumers have? Memo to the computer industry, most of your customers are not geeks. Shopping for a computer is just one more major purchase that we make from time to time (like a car, there I did it again!).

Excusing Windows from crashing because I may have been installing non-MS software (everything was Windows-compatible, by the way) would be like excusing my hyptothetical Honda from dying at a stoplight on the way home from the dealership because some of the parts were not made by Honda (only Honda compatible). I had to do it just one more time.

There's a reason why the "ole comparing it to cars" analogy just won't go away.

Last updated: Aug 2, 2011




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