Consumers are delaying hardware purchases because of their confusion over PC terminology, according to the results of a survey, conducted by AMD, released today. The processor maker advocates a system-level performance rating as a way to boost hardware sales, but analysts aren't sure that consumer buying behaviour is quite so simple.

A gap is forming between the technology that the PC and microprocessor industry puts on the market, and the adoption and understanding of that technology by consumers, said Patrick Moorhead, vice president of consumer advocacy and corporate marketing for AMD.

This gap results from confusion over basic technology terms, and a lack of understanding as to why a new PC will improve the user's experience, Moorhead said. "All communication starts with language. If you don't understand the language, you're going to have problems," he said.

AMD, surveyed 1,535 consumers around the world about their comfort level with various products, and quizzed respondents on the definitions of some commonly used PC terms such as megahertz and web browser.

The survey's respondents had trouble identifying the correct definition of many of those terms, even among respondents who had owned a PC for several years. Because of this confusion, many consumers become frustrated when researching a new PC and postpone their technology purchases, Moorhead said.

Not all signs indicate that consumers are holding back on hardware purchases, however. While corporate sales of PCs have indeed been stagnant for several years, consumers have proved surprisingly resilient. IDC expects US consumer PC sales to grow 10.8 percent in 2003, compared to expected growth worldwide of 6.5 percent.

AMD has for several months undertaken a marketing campaign called the True Performance Initiative to debunk what it calls the 'megahertz myth', or the idea that a PC processor's clock speed is the most important determination of performance. Believing that market leader Intel is misleading customers about performance by labelling its processors by their clock speed, AMD claims its own model number rating system more accurately portrays a processor's overall performance.

For consumers to fully understand what a PC can do for them, the industry needs to develop a system-level performance metric that can compare one PC to another, regardless of whether it uses a processor from AMD or Intel, a graphics card from nVidia or ATI or any number of other components from different vendors, Moorhead said.

"The key is making it relevant to the end user, taking 'What can I do differently with my new PC than my old PC?' and converting that into plain English," he said.