Tablets make computer users happy

American consumers have never been so happy with their computers according to the latest in a series of annual surveys. The trend appears to be the result of including tablets alongside traditional desktop and portable computers.

The figures come from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, an organization that runs regular surveys of how happy people are with a wide range of products, businesses and government services. The surveys cover 250 respondents for each company so there may be a notable margin of error, albeit it somewhat reduced for industry-wide figures. The responses are combined and expressed as a score out of 100.

This year personal computers got their highest ever score at 80, beating the previous record of 78 set in 2010 and 2011. (The difference certainly isn’t as dramatic as the group’s claim that the 2012 figure “blasts away” last year’s scores.) ACSI’s founder Claes Fornell is clear about where she believes the credit lies:

The current ACSI uptick for the industry at large is driven, in part, by the higher levels of customer satisfaction that tablets enjoy over desktops and laptops. As tablets gain market share, overall customer satisfaction with the PC industry picks up

That explanation certainly sounds credible to me. Yes, tablets are usually performing simpler tasks than PCs, but among major brands at least they are far less likely to be hit with viruses, crashes, colorful death screens and ever-lengthening boot processes among other irritations. There may also be something in a literal hands-on user experience being more satisfying.

When it comes to specific brands, Apple leads on 86 followed by Dell on 81, HP on 79, Acer on 79 and Toshiba on 77, with a combined figure for smaller PC makers of 80. Overall it’s a small drop for Apple and a small rise for PCs compared with last year.

ACSI notes that the companies that have gained in consumer satisfaction are also those who are losing market shares. There may be a perfectly logical explanation in that the people who are most frustrated by desktop PCs are the ones jumping ship to tablets, leaving the likes of Dell with a smaller but happier user base.

If the tablet theories are correct, computer owner happiness should continue rising: research firm IHS Suppli is now predicting worldwide tablet sales will rise from 82.1 million last year to 126.6 million in 2012. It says that this will be driven by seven inch models, with sales doubling — not least because Apple is likely to enter the market.

The researchers also note that LG and Samsung are among the unsung winners of the tablet boom, supplying a combined 80 percent of all tablet screens.