Do Computer Brands Matter Anymore?
Apple. Hewlett-Packard. Dell. Lenovo. Acer. Asus.
From the moment Windows 95 debuted, revolutionizing the consumer marketplace, it seemed the choice for customers was clear. Through trial and error, everyone narrowed down their preferences over the nearly twenty years that have followed. But a subtle shift has occurred in the past couple of years, making many consumers ask one question as they head out to buy tablets and laptops: Do computer brands even matter?
Even today, as tablets and smartphones have revolutionized the marketplace, there are still definite differences between various brands. Operating system is important, but do consumers keep hardware manufacturers in mind when shopping for new devices? Many small business owners say they do.
“I’m simply not happy with the level of technology innovation and subsequent customer service from lesser-known brands,” Hank Coleman of Money Q and A says. “There is a trade-off that consumers must make between price and quality.”
While that may be true, small business owners may still be standing in the electronics aisle, scratching their heads as they try to determine what makes each brand different. To help differentiate between the different brands, here is a breakdown of what each has to offer.
Because of its grasp of the tablet and smartphone market, Apple is still a leader in consumer electronics. While at times it surpasses PCs in computer sales, often it lags slightly behind leading PC-maker Hewlett-Packard (HP). Many small business owners find it’s easier to stick with the Windows interface, but Apple is known for its high-quality manufacturing and reliable operating system. Part of this is due to the fact that Apple designs both the operating system and the hardware it runs on, allowing the company to always be in control. One small business deterrent to Apple desktops and laptops is the cost. Traditionally, Apple devices cost more than $1,000, where today’s PC buyer can get his hands on a Windows desktop or laptop for around $500.
Offices all over the country are awash in Hewlett-Packard desktops. There’s a reason for that. HP has been the leader in global PC sales since 2007, taking over the crown from Dell. HP also specializes in printers, faxes, and multi-function printers, all designed specifically to address today’s business needs.
“HP offers a variety of products for SMBs looking to increase office efficiency and productivity, as well as reduce costs,” an HP spokesperson says. “HP enables SMBs to improve workflow through products designed specifically for them.”
HP offers affordable, devices well-suited to the average business user. While a graphic design or high-end video production shop might choose an Apple product, HP is perfect for the average office worker. The company completely overtook the success once enjoyed by Dell, but the manufacturer with the second-highest market share, Lenovo, is gaining momentum.
When Lenovo took over the IBM’s PC division in 2005, no one imagined the company would gradually emerge as a serious contender in the home and office PC market. Today, Lenovo’s laptops and workstations are quickly becoming small biz favorites, thanks to their sturdy, high-quality construction. One downfall to Lenovo is that it can be a bit pricier than HP, but when you try both models out you can feel a difference in quality that explains the slight price jump.
Like HP, Dell has been very popular with business users in the past. However, some businesses are growing disillusioned with the quality of the company’s products. Avraham Cohn of Digital Development Consulting, LLC finds that often our preferences for certain computer brands seems to stem from subconscious perceptions of the brand, rather than an actual cost/benefit analysis.
“The truth is that in order to stay competitive, the quality of the products produced by either HP or Dell is essentially par,” Cohn explains.
Many have complained in recent years about the failure rate of Dell’s products. While the company has always emphasized customer service, the rush to push out an ultra-inexpensive PC has led to some issues with lower-end models like the Inspiron. If you’re looking for a low-cost PC or laptop, Dell may be the best choice for you…just be sure to buy the extended warranty.
Asus has emerged as a serious player in the PC market, with recognition in several major electronics magazines. Asus has been recognized for both its durability and its innovation in design and its warranty is one of the best in the business. Asus products are also competitively priced, giving customers a value.
It’s highly unlikely consumers will rule out brand names anytime in the near future. As Sean Casto, CEO of PreApps.com points out, good brands that make quality products are still rewarded in the marketplace. The only difference, he says, is that operating system plays a role in consumer buying decisions, as well.
“The old days of buying an HP or a Dell because they were the best are over,” Casto says. “There are new players into the market that have exceeded them. However, that doesn’t mean that brands are obsolete.”
As many small business owners have found out, brand is tied closely to marketing in any industry. Computers are no different. Business owners are learning, however, that HP and Apple aren’t the only ideal manufacturers out there who can deliver high-quality products.