A Customer Experience Index report from Forrester Research came to the conclusion after studying almost 4,600 computer users' experiences from 2008 and asking them to score the ease of use of their computers, how enjoyable the experience is and whether or not the systems fulfill their owners' needs.
Apple's overall score reached 80 and was not only enough to give it the lead but also leave it as the only company to earn a "good" ranking in Forrester's view. Every other manufacturer in the list scored significantly lower, with Acer's American label Gateway being closest with a score of just 66; the standing is only "okay" in the research group's chart.
Every other major vendor in the chart fared worse. HP and its budget brand, Compaq, were lumped into the "poor" category with near-identical scores of 64 and 63. Dell, once considered a baseline for PC quality, was ranked just 58.
The spread is that much more evident when comparing only the more subjective qualities of ease of use and happiness. In his personal blog, the report's chief architect Bruce Temkin explains that Apple's lead only widened when focused on these two criteria: although its overall lead was 14 percent, it garnered a 17 percent edge in terms of ease of use and 15 percent for contentment with respective systems. For Dell, this last category was humbling as the Texas-based PC builder scored just 47 -- enough to give it the "very poor" label in that section.
Exactly why Apple is above the fray isn't the focus of the research, though the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has regularly skewed its Mac lineup towards the premium end of the market and, accordingly, can use faster or higher-quality parts that improve the perceived experience.
Whatever the case, the study can't come at a worse time for Microsoft, which has gone to great expense to persuade the public that choice and price in Windows PCs trump Apple's higher-cost but focused lineup. Where Microsoft maintains that Mac owners are simply buying the logo, Forrester suggests they're buying a better overall experience; where it paid off a consultant to manipulate cost differences and claim Mac users pay more for less, the Customer Experience Index suggests that any savings from the Windows PCs may be countered by extra frustrations stemming from hardware or software.
Apple hasn't responded to Forrester's study, but it doesn't necessarily have to. Its response to the Microsoft ads has mirrored its results in the Index and asserted that many cheaper PCs represent a false economy if they turn out to lack important features.