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Desktop comeback on horizon? It may be so, given user satisfaction report

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While Apple topped rivals in a recent customer satisfaction report, smaller PC makers are working hard to close the gap, now being at its narrowest margin since 1998.

2014 is the 10th year in a row that Apple's Mac computers received the highest customer satisfaction results.

"Apple drops 3 percent to 84, but maintains a sizable lead over its major competitors, which it has held since 2004," said the report published by The American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI. "Nevertheless, companies with a smaller market share, such as Samsung, Lenovo and Asus, are closing in, up 8 percent to an ACSI score of 82."

The report also revealed a drop in customer satisfaction related to tablets. Satisfaction of tablets dropped 1.2 points to 80 percent, down from the 81.2 percent that was reported in 2013.

"Slower growth and declining satisfaction with tablets suggest that manufacturers have not kept up with consumer expectations regarding innovation and improvement," said ASCI in the report.

Interestingly, all computer manufacturers named in the report showed a drop in customer satisfaction compared with last year, with Dell dropping 3.5 percent and Hewlett-Packard dropping as much as 7.5 percent.

Despite the drop for specific manufacturers, desktop computers overall saw a 3 percent increase, now up to 81 percent. Notebook computers, however, dropped by 4 points to 76 percent.

"Before tablets, laptops scores didn't lag behind desktops, because then the laptop was the tablet. People said, 'Now I have a mobile computer,' " said David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI. "But now the laptop kind of falls in the middle between desktops and tablets. It's orphaned."

VanAmburg suggests the reason for the closed gap between PC makers and Apple is the fact that consumers have needed to upgrade their systems for a while and now that they have better performance and software their satisfaction has increased. His claims are supported by the fact that many computer manufacturers reported beter-than-expected sales for the second quarter.

Historically, personal computers score lower than other appliances that the ACSI tracks and that trend continues in 2014.

"One of the reasons why the PC industry had always scored lower than other durable products is the complexity involved in the PC," said VanAmburg. "There's a certain simplicity to running a dishwasher versus the kinds of things that go wrong with a PC."

The ACSI regularly surveys 70,000 consumers on a variety of topics to obtain its results. For this particular survey the group surveyed 1,400 consumers who had purchased a PC within the last three years.

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