% fortune -ae paul murphy

Does reliability matter?

Last Wednesday's attempt at half a light hearted 12 step program for technology addicts resulted in, among other things, a discussion of the importance of reliability. Here's something Carl Rapson, quoting me, had to say about that:


"Is it just that MS has taught them this is the way it has to be?"

It's just that it's NOT THAT IMPORTANT to most people.

Carl Rapson

Actually, I believe it is - with respect to everything except wintel PCs. Ask a Mac user what he values, and reliability will get mentioned - as witness Apple's need to increase its warranty reserves beyond PC levels now that Mac hardware quality standards have fallen to PC levels.

More directly: imagine consumer reaction to a car, a drug packager, a power company, a nursing home, or a cell phone service provider with PC levels of reliability.

Still, none of that would have made this a blog topic, if google hadn't blessed me with highly illuminating, not to say hilarious in the context of Carl's comment, hit on Microsoft's hardware site - here's the pertinent bit:

Reliable Mice and Keyboards Boost Workplace Morale

New Survey Suggests Happiness and Productivity Linked to High-Quality Technology

REDMOND, Wash. March 22, 2005 If it feels like you are more productive at work than ever, take heart; it?s probably true. According to a new survey commissioned by Microsoft Hardware, that increased productivity is brought to you by a close relationship with your computer.1 The survey revealed that two out of three office workers spend at least six hours a day using a computer, and nearly 25 percent said they spend eight hours a day at the computer.

With employees spending more time in front of the computer screen ? more hours in fact than many of us spend sleeping ? the quality and comfort of mice and keyboards takes on critical importance. That?s why Microsoft Hardware is developing sophisticated and reliable products that help keep workers productive and comfortable day after day.

?With employees spending more and more time on the keyboard, we are dedicated to providing them with high-quality products that are as reliable as they are innovative,? said Tom Gibbons, general manager of the Hardware Group at Microsoft Corp. ?For more than a decade, we?ve gone to great lengths to ensure that our products are rigorously tested to perform in the harshest conditions imaginable, including the modern office.?

The survey also emphasised the need for reliable computer products, suggesting that few employees have the expertise to fix their computer devices when they break. In fact, nearly two-thirds of respondents perceived repairing their mouse and keyboard to be more difficult than repairing a flat tire.

Additional survey results outlined consumer perceptions of mice and keyboards. Eight out of 10 computer users believe that high-quality mice and keyboards have an important impact on their ability to be productive at work. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents said high-quality mice and keyboards would even boost morale in the office. In addition, when asked to rate a selection of mice and keyboard manufacturers, Microsoft was the company respondents most associated with reliable, high-quality hardware peripherals. (Survey participants came from the general population of computer users and were unaware of any Microsoft involvement in the survey.)

Well; if even Microsoft cares, what can we conclude? Nothing really, but I think it strengthens the case for the belief that there is no general user indifference to reliability, only a wintel and data processing induced user cynicism about computer reliability.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.