The channel's response to the Australian Consumers' Association's recent survey on computer reliability has been uniformly negative. The survey found that the computer is not only the most reliable piece of technology in the home - compared to fridges and washing machines - but that white-box, non-branded systems are among the worst for reliability.
Across the board, many industry pundits believe that the end user is part of the issue when it comes to reliability, and that comparing computers to other household appliances is like comparing chalk and cheese.
Alex Chen, vice president of Ocean Office Automation, is one person who is unsure about the wisdom of the comparison. "A lot of problems come from users installing their own hardware or software," he said. "When you buy a TV, you turn it on and that's it. But a lot of PC problems come from user installation."
Like Chen, Ross Whitelaw, general manager of Leading Edge Computers, attributes poor reliability to user error. "We have a saying that if you buy a car, it goes without saying that you should know how to drive one," he said. "A lot of people don't know what they are doing before they plunge into purchasing a computer."
Chen also believes that lumping all non-branded systems together into one category is rather misleading. "There are definitely some manufacturers out there that are a lot worse than others," he said, "and these rubbish systems can drag more reputable ones down."
Another interesting point was made by Luke Liu, managing director of Sydney's MCT Computers, regarding the importance of who actually uses white-box solutions. "The consumer tends to play around with the PC, treat it like a toy, and they come across a lot of software problems. The end user doesn't know how to solve the problem and presumes it's the hardware."
The corporate market, however, is where Liu sees white-box computers making the most ground, displaying reliability as good as any branded system. "I'm sure you would get a completely different result if you were looking at the reliability of the business machine," he said. "The applications are loaded onto it and the inexperienced user doesn't play around with it, they just get on with their work."
The CEO of Queensland-based system builder Coretech, Garry Holmes, had something to say about the impact of technology choices made by the manufacturer.
"I think that [the survey] is unfounded," he said. "It very much depends upon the quality of components that the white-box builder uses."