Apple, Google and Symantec top loyalty stakes

But will recent problems deter users from being quite so positive in future?

Apple, Google and Symantec are the companies we are most likely to recommend to a friend seeking advice on hardware, software and Internet services.

That's the conclusion of a series of surveys published this week by Satmetrix Systems, a "customer experience management" firm. It asked people who had bought technology products and services which companies they would advise other people to use.

It's not clear how many people took part in the surveys, which did not allow consumers to select any vendor of their choice. Apple came out ahead of Compaq, Dell, eMachines, Gateway, HP and IBM in the computing sector, while Google beat eBay, MSN.com, MyPoints.com, Netscape, and Yahoo in the online services stakes. Symantec was the most popular software vendor, ahead of Adobe, Intuit, McAfee and Microsoft.

"Apple, whose score far outranks its closest competitor, is well known for its passionate and dedicated customer base," said Dr. Laura Brooks, vice president of research and business consulting at Satmetrix Systems, in a statement.

"Google's high score establishes it as a clear leader in the emerging market of online services, with corresponding strong performance in share price. Symantec, in the more highly competitive and established consumer software business, is beginning to differentiate itself, largely on the strong showing of its Norton suite of products," Dr Brooks added.

While the results of the survey are likely to please Apple, Google and Symantec, it should be noted that the votes were collected last year, since when each company had suffered some blows to their reputations.

Google's squeaky-clean image was blackened in January 2006 by its decision to censor its search results in China. Apple has faced complaints that the screens of its iPod Nano music player scratch too easily, although its move to Intel chips should win it even more fans.

Symantec admitted late last year that many of its products contained a high-risk flaw. Users of Norton AntiVirus 2005 have also complained that the product hampered their system performance and often crashed.

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