I have attempted to give the Windows X86 PC industry a report card on key issues faced from watching my recently retired parents experience in buying an OEM PC this past summer. I expect their experience to be similar from stories I have heard.
Amount of standard RAM: F
Standard PC still ships below realistic system minimum needs, 128 MB RAM too low. System should boot out of the box without needing virtual ram.
Third party hardware suppliers: F
When attempting to make a simple stick of ram addition the wholesalers were entirely inadequate for any except the experienced PC hardware person. Actually they are pretty bad for the experienced.
OEM after purchases upgrades: F
I have never experienced such difficulties when trying to spend money, especially given the current economic conditions. It took 4 phone calls and once being transfered to a voice mail box of someone who no longer worked at the company to make a simple memory upgrade. At one point the sales person swore that memory didn’t exist for the motherboard, even though the machine shipped with a stick of RAM.
Ready to run out of the box: F
System received had numerous patches and service packs that should have been applied at the OEM. There is no excuse for a system to need patches more than a week old. As a very poor alternative the OEM should ship a CDROM that contains all the patches, but this is a bad alternative.
OEM documentation: F
Wholly inadequate to useless. First what limited instructions were present were borderline useless for any but the experienced. Second most of the specs for existing hardware or replacement hardware were incorrect.
“Bundled” ISP: F
Currently almost all OEM PCs come with the free 6 months of AOL and/or MSN, probably as a tie-in service like DellNet with MSN. In either case the services require unnecessary information at initial account creation and attempted to trick the user into making purchases through deceptive placement of dialogues. After the accounts are created the attempt at branding whole confuses most users. Rather providing a clean gateway to the Internet and differentiate through quality and prices of the value adds they go so far as to obscure other providers of said services like search engines.
Overall Grade: F
For all the improvements in touted in the industry they still have not came close to requirements to really expect any but those required to participate in the computing revolution. I would not recommend a Windows X86 PC to any that have not already acquired substantial experience, say through work or school, or had a very definite and real need. Honestly for most a computer and related services are a waste of $1,000+.
I’m looking for comments on this one for any and all. I deliberately kept Apple out of the rant due to lack of recent experience.