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Why are there so many Lousy Laptops?

9-21-18



Laptops on Display There are so many really, really, awful, horrible laptops (and desktops) around. The question is why? And what should you do as a result?

Before I begin this rant(?), I should explain my background a little. I have never designed a laptop or desktop computer. That's not 100% accurate, because I have built several desktops. But that is not nearly as skill-intensive as designing the motherboards, etc. I'm not an electrical engineer. However, I have many years of experience designing products (non-commercial products) with seven different companies, some of which are some of the largest corporations in the United States. So, I know what it's like to work on a team with several hundred people who are designing a single product. And I do understand the pressures they are under and the work environments in which they must frequently function (or try to function). By the way, I hate the new term "makers". Why must each generation rename things that already have perfectly suitable names. Engineers design machines--computers, cars, aircraft, electrical appliances, radios, TV's, rockets, ships, oil rigs. Why did people start calling them makers? They are engineers.

Now that that's out of the way, let me spell out what I think the problem is. As I see it, the problem is pretty simple: marketers, accountants, and engineering managers. The vast majority of engineers want to design great products, and they would if given a chance, often even working overtime for free to ensure that result. But they are more often than not prevented from doing so. The reason is that the people engineers work for often don't care or don't understand the products they design. And they don't seem to care at all about the people who will be using those products. I could tell you at least one horror story about that, but I will refrain. There are bosses who do care--Steve Jobs was one notable exception. But he is the exception that proves the almost universal rule. You would think that even managers in giant corporations would in their minds be able to link the quality of the product with the success of the company with them keeping their jobs. But no. They don't get it.

But I think most bosses (engineering managers, accountants and marketers) are "yes" men for their bosses. In other words, they will do whatever they're told to do. If they're told to complete a laptop design in too short a time, that's what they'll do--whether it turns out to be a piece of garbage or not. The reason is that "yes" men get promoted. It's no more complicated than that. Unfortunately, the people who are setting deadlines, aren't people who know anything about actually creating a good design (again, Steve Jobs being a notable exception), because they most likely have never designed anything. Why people who have never actually done the job (and are therefore incapable of doing it well, if at all) are telling engineers how to do it is beyond me, but that is very often what happens in the United States, especially in large corporations. We have a really bad management problem in this country, and I have no idea how to solve it.

The result of this management problem is that when you or I go out to buy a computer, we are deluged with really, really, lousy computers--especially laptops, because they are harder to get right than desktops. So, if I were to simply go out and plunk down my hard-earned money for some random, shiny new laptop, the chances are good that it would be a barking, peeing-on-the-carpet DOG. And that is not an exaggeration. I mean that many, if not most, laptops out there for sale won't even work passably as a laptop. Most of us expect a laptop to do certain things--write documents, play movies and music, surf the Internet, send email, maybe watch Netflix, not burn up and die in six months, etc. The average laptop out there won't even do all those things--let alone do all of them well.

An excellent example is all the laptops that were released in the 2016-2017 time-frame running Windows 10 with non-upgradeable, 32 GB hard drives. As soon as Windows 10 updates itself, you are left with essentially zero space on your hard drive. What are you supposed to do with your laptop then? Set it on your desk and admire it? Use it as a paperweight? Use it as a heated bed for your cat? Use it as a weapon in your self defense class? What?

Another example of a bad laptop, which shall remain nameless, is one I bought years ago. Nothing was wrong with the SATA hard drive that the manufacturer chose to use. However, the manufacturer had installed Windows XP and decided not to write a Windows XP SATA driver for the SATA hard drive. Thus, you were forced to use IDE compatibility mode in the BIOS settings in order for the hard drive to work at all. The problem with IDE compatibility mode is that it is really, really slow. The result was that the hard drive could only be accessed at about 2MB/s! The online reviewers actually liked the laptop--except for the abysmally slow hard drive, which killed it for them. So, solely due to the poor hard drive performance, most of them did not recommend the laptop as a "buy". Years after the laptop had come out, Windows 7 came out. And although Windows 7 could be run on this laptop, the manufacturer never created a SATA driver for the hard drive for Windows 7 either. And it never corrected its mistake of not creating a SATA driver for Windows XP. Even after the laptop had been on the market for years! You are left to wonder, did the manufacturer care if anyone bought their laptop? Apparently not!

So, knowing full well that not enough people will take my advice to make any difference at all, I'll tell you what you should do about the United States' management problem. Don't buy garbage products! In other words, force companies to put out good products by not buying garbage. Companies only put out garbage products, because they know most of us will buy them--no matter how shoddy they are. So, don't buy them!

I'll tell you a story that further illustrates my point. I had a coworker (an engineer, as it happens) who was frequently outraged about his 10-year-old house needing repairs. He said that in Germany, where he is from, people live in stone houses, and they don't have to spend nearly the amount of money fixing their houses as we do in the United States. And their houses are hundreds of years old! He understood the problem. We don't care about quality. And we end up paying exorbitantly for that. And, yes, the same principle applies to computers.

If we decide to care about quality, we'll start living in longer lasting homes, we'll get better computers, and we'll do several other things better too. So, be part of the solution--don't buy crummy, low-quality laptops.



Related Articles:

When Buying a Computer, More Knowledge Equals Lower Cost

Know a Quality Computer when You see It.

Know What You're Buying Before You Buy a Computer

Know What You Need Before You Buy a Computer

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