Microsoft tilts at Apple by selling PCs with support service?

The Microsoft Store (US only) has started selling desktops and laptops direct to consumers – with “90 days of Microsoft Support Services included”. If MS provides phone support for the complete package of hardware, software and online services, this could finally be the IT support solution for home users – and will offer competition to Apple’s integrated hardware, software and support offering. Since Apple makes the hardware and much of your key software it can – and does – provide a great telephone-based or in-store support service. Result: happy Apple customers.

Currently, Windows home users get their hardware support from, say, Dell; their internet support from the ISP, or not…; their software support from… er… google or friends. The providers are fragmented so the support is poor – fingerpointing, lack of visibility and control of other parts of the system, etc.

So you get an IT support company to front it all up. Geek Squad offers a menu of fixed-price jobs or a fixed-price limited support service (eg excludes £99 site visits). But that ends up expensive and its interests aren’t aligned with the customer’s. Only by including all support, including on-site, for a fixed price is the provider incentivised to reduce problems rather than making money by fixing more of them.

That’s what we do at Conosco: our fixed-price all-inclusive IT support service covers remote and on-site support, covers hardware, software, internet connections, online services, the whole caboodle. The fixed pricing incentivises us to reduce problems, which is what the customer really wants.

The problem is it’s designed for businesses with five or more users – below that the account management costs don’t work and one side tends to feel it’s getting the wrong end of the fixed price deal. But if you don’t provide a personal account-managed service, the quality of service is rubbish – the customer has to repeat their situation each time they call, etc.

So there’s a huge hole in the market for high quality IT support for home users that aligns everyone’s interests.

Even if MS supports only its own software and services and fronts the hardware support, it has sufficient applications for most users’ needs. And supporting an entire system, especially if you made most of it, allows you to provide a great service.

So what will MS charge after 90 days and how? With control of the OS, software and services, it is in a powerful position to offer high-quality integrated support. Just like Apple does…