Paris - An annual survey of professional PC users' satisfaction by Univers Macworld's colleagues at IT weekly Décision Micro & Réseaux produced a surprise.

"Apple, given up for dead not so long ago, took first place when it comes to satisfaction," announced Karim Benoussi, editor of the survey for Décision. Even better, Apple "won the gold medal in all categories of PC, notably among portables, a market segment where Apple has truly demonstrated a difference from the competition."

PowerBooks indeed seem to be wildly popular with French users. When it comes to office systems, Apple is at the head of the list for reliability and ease of maintenance. The only criticism (which Univers Macworld's readers confirm regularly): Apple should do a better job of providing after-sale service. It's worth noting that, unlike some of its competitors that rated higher on this scale, Apple doesn't provide its own after-sales service, instead relying on a network of after-market service providers.

When it comes to brand loyalty, Apple placed second, with almost 60 per cent of Macintosh users counting themselves as faithful. (Dell received a 70 per cent score.)

French server users also gave an excellent satisfaction rating to Apple. That's something of a surprise, since even Mac-dominated networks usually run on Unix or Windows NT servers. Clearly, what's being recognized here isn't the importance of Apple in the server market (where its presence is negligable) but the reliability and easy management of its systems.

The survey - at least as presented by Décision Micro & Réseaux - rendered up one astonishing fact: Looking at the high satisfaction levels reported for Apple hardware, we wonder why the Mac OS doesn't appear at all when it comes to operating systems! Only the different versions of Windows and Unix are accounted for. We're skeptical that all those Mac users who responded to the survey are working on Linux or via Virtual PC!

Translation by MacWeek's Matthew Rothenberg