Consumer satisfaction index shows Macs in a good light

— 6:00 AM on August 19, 2008

Are folks who buy Macs really happier with their purchases, or are they just lining Steve Jobs' pockets by paying more for the same thing? According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), Mac users are actually much more pleased than their PC-using counterparts—and the gap between the two is growing wider.

In the second quarter of each year, the University of Michigan surveys customer satisfaction across a chunk of the market spanning computers, cars, major appliances, search engines, and news sites. To give you a rough idea of where things stand, last quarter's index shows an overall satisfaction of 80.7 (out of a possible 100) across those areas. Toyota and Google both score 86, General Electric scores 80, and AOL scores a paltry 69.

How happy are folks with their PCs by comparison? The ACSI gives personal computers an average rating of only 74 this year, with Dell, HP, Gateway, and HP Compaq scoring a respective 75, 73, 70, and 72. Those numbers have been dropping for two consecutive years, too. In stark contrast, Apple leads the pack with a satisfaction rating of 85, up about 8% since last year.

The University of Michigan says the 10-point gap between Apple and Dell is "one of the largest . . . between first and second in any industry measured by ACSI," and it calls Apple's score a "new all-time high for the [PC] industry." Apple's success seems to be a recent phenomenon, though. The ACSI gave Apple a lower score than Dell in 2003, and the Mac maker only had a three-point edge over its closest competitor last year. Chalk it up to the awkward transition to Windows Vista, the aesthetic appeal of shiny white plastic, or Jobs' legendary reality distortion field, but Mac users are apparently happier than they've been since at least 1995.

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