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Baffling jargon jinxing PC sales, claims AMD

Too much FSB, too little TLC for consumers

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Forget SARS and Iraq - the real reason punters around the globe are putting off purchasing PCs is more simple: they don't understand the jargon.

So says a report published today by AMD's Global Consumer Advisory Board (GCAB), a quasi-independent organisation founded to... er... find ways of marketing technology and technology products without the jargon.

"Too many potential buyers don't understand the language of the technology industry, and are delaying their purchases because products and terminology are too complex," says the GCAB report.

Since that's the CGAB's raison d'etre it's not surprising that it should come to such a conclusion. Nor is such a conclusion surprising to anyone with an ounce of sense. Of course folk bamboozled by the terminology are less likely to buy. If they don't understand what it is they're buying, how can they compare products to find the one that's best for them?

The question is, is that happening more frequently these days? Is the argot becoming too abstruse?

Market researcher MetaFacts - which was hired to create and conduct the survey by the GCAB - talked to approx. 1500 consumers in China, Japan, the UK and the US. Consumers were asked if they understood 11 technology terms, including 'megahertz', 'megapixel', 'Bluetooth', 'dpi', 'dot pitch', 'web browser' and 'MP3'.

Only three per cent of respondents got all of them right. And only 65 per cent could accurately define 'megahertz'.

Having taken the test ourselves (score: 11 out of 11, natch), it has to be said that, like so many surveys that set out to prove a point, the questions are subtly tailored push the score in a certain direction, in this case by making it even harder for the less well-informed to get the right answer. The megahertz question, for example, offers a choice of three definitions:

"1. A data transfer technology that uses fiber optic cable to carry information
 2. A unit of measurement equal to one million electrical cycles per second, commonly used to compare the clock speeds of microprocessors
 3. A computer's random access memory equal to one million bytes"

Compare that to the question 'what is a digital video recorder or DVR?', a question of less relevance to AMD:

"1. The same as a VCR/Video Cassette Recorder
 2. A box that records and plays television programs
 3. A box that makes DVDs"

Consumers were also asked about purchasing and many indeed said they would delay purchasing, particularly those who had scored poorly on the definition test. "For example," says the GCAB, "47 per cent of those who scored the lowest state they will delay their purchases of digital cameras due to complexity." It would be interesting to know if they were asked whether price, perceived need, desirability, disposable income levels and standard of education are also factors in their decision not to buy.

Some broader points outside the remit of the GCAB were raised with consumers too, revealing, for instance, that "the PC is a gateway to the adoption of other consumer technology products. For instance, 87 per cent of those who plan to buy a DVR in the next 12 months already use a home PC, and 80 per cent of those who plan to buy a DVD player in the next 12 months already use a home PC". Good news for companies with a stake in PC sales... like AMD, for instance.

But to whatever extent all this is marketing masquerading as academic research - not to mention self-justification and stating the obvious - it's true that for many people computing products do involve too much exclusionary jargon. The GCAB is calling on the industry to "simplify its vocabulary so that consumers around the world can better understand the benefits technology can bring to their lives".

Maybe, but it's easier said than done. With so little else to use to differentiate products, manufacturers naturally fall back on technical specs. When vendors, and the techies inside them and among their customer bases have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, it's hard to see such a call being answered. Even by AMD. ®

Related Link

AMD: The GCAB technology terminology and complexity test

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