When a rose isn't a rose

What a hue and cry. General Motors said the engines were identical except for the name.


After all, don't car makers routinely offer competing models whose differences are
purely cosmetic?


I remember the dirty look my uncle gave me when I complimented the color of his new
Caprice station wagon. It was a Roadmaster.


Computers, on the other hand, all look pretty much alike, but the substitution of even
one part can radically alter performance. That's why makers specify not just the obvious
things like processor and amount of RAM, but also brand and model of hard drive, speed of
CD-ROM drive and bus type.


This all came to mind recently when two computers the GCN Lab received for test and
review were substantially different
from what the vendors-highly reputable manufacturers-thought they were shipping.


When our reporters started asking around, they found that this happens somewhat
regularly in the government [GCN, March 3, Page 1]. At least one program manager
requires the prime contractor check out every computer before delivery and installation.


We discovered the errors because we run benchmark tests and tend to take the machines
apart and look inside.


But what about the average user who doesn't have the time or maybe even the expertise
to verify that what was delivered is what was ordered?


Perhaps this doesn't matter as long as the machine runs the software. Even so, the
government still isn't getting what it pays for.


No major computer brand deliberately deceives customers. But this
working-but-not-what-the-customer-wanted is a
problem that can only grow worse as the possible configuration combinations multiply.


From Intel Corp. alone you'll be able to order Pentium and Pentium Pros, with and
without MMX, at several choices of clock speed.


We urge the PC industry, both manufacturers and resellers who configure machines for
users, to renew efforts to make sure the line delivers what the order ticket specifies.


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