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Lenovo Wins Latest Slapfest With Dell

Squabbles over advertising claims in the tech industry are as common as product point releases, but every now and then the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureau, which monitors advertising claims and investigates their veracity, has to step in.

If the NAD is like a parent in the front seat of a minivan, the PC industry is more like their hyperactive kids sitting in the back complaining about each other. The group has had to endure endless complaints from vendors about the veracity of ads from competitors.

Occasionally, someone has a legitimate beef. This was one such occasion. Lenovo, the Chinese firm that , took umbrage at advertising claims of "the world's most secure notebooks," and the NAD ruled that Dell's claims "were not supported by the evidence in the record."

Turnabout's fair play, it seems. In April, Dell complained about Lenovo's contention that it sold "The world's best-engineered PCs with the awards to prove it." The NAD ruled that Lenovo's awards didn’t specifically say its PCs are the world's best-engineered because the industry has no award for "best engineered" PC. Lenovo initially appealed the decision but has since dropped the appeal.

Ray Gorman, a spokesman for Lenovo, said the firm was pleased with the decision. "Different companies have different things on which they stake their reputation, that are their claims to fame," he told InternetNews.com. "For Lenovo, with our ThinkPad brand, we are known for our technical innovation. So any time someone is claiming they are the most manageable or secure, we look at that very carefully."

Jess Blackburn, a Dell spokesman, spun it his own way. "We are pleased that the NAD concluded that Dell demonstrated a reasonable basis for claims of unique and meaningful security features. While the campaign containing the broader advertising claims challenged in this proceeding has ended, should Dell engage in any security-related advertising containing superiority claims in the future, we will follow NAD's recommendations," he said in a statement to InternetNews.com.

Perception is paramount

But while many may roll their eyes at such a fuss over an ad, IDC analyst Richard Shim said there is value in these claims. "Perception is paramount, particularly when it comes to relationship deals," he said. "Perception is important, especially to customers. Part of the reason why is because it's hard to quantify. When it comes to pride of innovation, there is a lot invested there."

At the same time, he said what it means to be the most secure is rather arbitrary. "The fact of the matter is the industry will never know, because there are different measures," said Shim. "In different situations some will be more secure than the other. And the thing is, this industry never sits still. It changes constantly."

Dell can, however, still lay claim to once having had the most smokin' notebooks on the market.