Dell still at the top of the notebook PC heap

Dell has biggest piece of pie

The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on notebook PCs is based on a telephone survey of 100 readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT or systems managers.

Dell Computer Corp. is tightening its grip on the government notebook PC market, a recent GCN telephone survey indicated.

In a telephone poll of mostly federal government managers--the survey included a smattering of state and local managers--38 percent said they use notebooks from Dell Computer Corp.

The last time we looked at notebook product preferences, Dell held a 31 percent segment of the survey sample. In that survey, Toshiba America Inc. nabbed a 19 percent slice, followed by IBM Corp. with 12 percent and Gateway Inc. at 9 percent.

In the latest survey, Dell's 38 percent share more than doubled that of IBM Corp., which improved to a 17 percent stake.

Notebooks from Compaq Computer Corp., which retain that brand despite a merger with Hewlett-Packard Co., were third at 13 percent, and Gateway came in No. 4 at 11 percent. Toshiba grabbed only 6 percent of the sample this time around.

The IBM users we talked with demonstrated the most enthusiasm overall for their machines--every one of them rated their notebooks either excellent or good.

"Overall, the quality is excellent," said a Navy computer technician in Newport, R.I., an IBM ThinkPad user.

But more Dell users--68 percent--put their notebooks in the excellent category, for a variety of reasons.

Many of them gave Dell top-notch ratings for customer service and technical support.

"The tech support is excellent," said a computer technician for the city of Shreveport, La., who uses a Dell Inspiron 8100.

Most notebook users we polled found an upside and a downside to their brands.

"It's reliable and has good tech support," said a Transportation Department information resources manager about his Dell Latitude 6600. But, she added, "it's heavy."

"It's very durable," said a Federal Aviation Administration LAN administrator in Bangor, Maine, about his Dell Latitude. "But in a bright environment, the display is difficult to read."

"It's very portable and user friendly, but the battery life is too short," said an administrative director for the city of Troy, Ala., who uses a Gateway Solo 7200.

Indeed, battery life was foremost on the minds of managers we surveyed: 82 percent identified long battery life as the characteristic they look for most when choosing a notebook.

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