Presarios Freezing - and Not Because it's Winter

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Event Summary

12/30/99 [ZDNet News]- At least 20 Compaq customers who purchased the Presario 5800 PCs recently have reported inexplicable freezing of their PCs while surfing the Web or playing games. The freeze forces users to shut down and reboot, sometimes by pressing the machine's power button or unplugging it.

"It's a known problem and we've been proactive in addressing it," said Compaq spokeswoman Hedy Baker. Compaq has responded in two ways: telling users the problem is caused by limited system resources, and by issuing a "SoftPAQ", a fix/patch designed to address this problem on certain Presario 5800 models. However, as of January 4, 2000, some users are still experiencing problems, even after following Compaq's directions.

Market Impact

This affects the consumer market more than the corporate market. Presarios are targeted there, and presently hold a commanding 33% share in that segment. However, there will be an overflow effect, i.e. adjacent products (e.g. DeskPro and Prosignia) may find themselves under scrutiny for the same issue, even if there is no reason to be concerned. In addition, Compaq's competitors will likely use this to maximize their FUD-based (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) marketing/sales efforts. It is likely that this problem would have been found with more rigorous software/system testing by Compaq. This adds to the perception among some newsgroupies that Compaq's system quality is not high enough.

The secondary market effect will, at least in the short term, be on Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Although customers have apparently experienced this problem with Celeron-based (Intel Corp CPU) machines, the bulk of the negative attention has been focused on systems using CPUs made by AMD. Intel is aggressively cutting prices and producing faster CPUs in an effort to kill Advanced Micro. AMD can little afford to have any negative perceptions, whether deserved or not.

User Recommendations

The Presario 5800 Series is geared for the consumer market. Even so, corporate users planning to purchase a significant quantity of Presario 5800s (and possibly 5900s) should exercise caution. Even though the reported problems occurred primarily during gaming (and we know gaming never happens on company time), buying systems with a known defect/problem is not an advisable course of action. We suggest these purchasers wait until Compaq proves/verifies that all the problems have been solved. By "solved" we mean fixed, not a statement from Compaq akin to "There's a known fix for that, and here is how it's done".

For the longer term, this incident is not a reason to stay away from Compaq. However, users/purchasers should stay alert to see if similar issues occur six to nine months from now (about the time it takes a new product to be released). If they do, users will be justified in questioning Compaq on its commitment to quality.

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