by Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Announcing a new suite of on-site repair services, Apple Computer today responded to complaints that they had fallen behind the pack in service offerings. Key to the suite is a network of on-site service providers, including many of Apple's existing resellers and repair organizations.
Most interesting is Apple's new on-site one-year warranty. Covering most of its desktop computers and many peripherals, this program replaces the company's existing one-year warranty, which until today required owners to bring equipment to the dealer or pay for an on-site call.
Apple has made the on-site warranty coverage retroactive to cover equipment purchased after 01-Feb-93. This seems fair, though not as magnanimous as when Apple instituted its one year warranty a few years ago, and retroactively covered even some purchasers whose ninety-day warranties had expired.
Also new is an on-site version of AppleCare, the extended-warranty service that lets purchasers to extend protection in monthly increments. As before, AppleCare coverage provides the same protection and services as the warranty.
Finally, Apple will offer toll-free support to all users in the U.S. from 6 AM to 6 PM Pacific time, Monday to Friday. The number is below, but it hasn't changed from the original 800/SOS-APPL.
PowerBooks and a few peripherals (and the upcoming Newton products) will continue to require mail-in service rather than on-site service, though PowerBook owners will still have the option of visiting a PowerBook-authorized repair location (some, but not all, dealers). Several models of Macintosh (primarily the older ones) and some peripherals will not be eligible for any on-site services, presumably because they would be difficult or dangerous to handle on-site.
The new on-site warranty program matches the free in-home warranty service provided with Performa purchases since the Performa line was introduced last year. Macintosh owners requiring a service visit call a toll-free number, and the central service connects the user with a local service provider who performs the repair at the customer's home or office. Eastman Kodak has provided Apple's on-site service to date, and although they could undoubtedly handle the extra work resulting from this change, Apple has decided not to cut their traditional service providers (primarily local dealers) out of the process.
Your local dealer will decide soon whether or not to participate fully in the new service program. For some, adding sufficient staff and equipment to support on-site repair might pose too great an investment. For dealers who already have outbound service technicians, though, or who are large enough to restructure their service division, this new service offering could revitalize a network of dealers who typically find it hard to distinguish themselves from the mail-order DOS clone vendors and superstores.
Once the network of on-site service providers is in place, anyone within 60 miles of one of these sites will be able to request in-office or in-home warranty repairs. Furthermore, dealers will undoubtedly offer on-site service - at an additional charge - for out of warranty equipment. A 60 mile radius may be a bit of a stretch, but most of Apple's customers and dealers are densely enough packed that Apple probably isn't worried, statistically anyway, about how many Macs there are that far from the nearest dealer. (Living in central New York State, I can envision many such locales, some of which my coworkers may soon find themselves visiting!)
Until that network is finished, on-site repair won't be universally available, but it will be interesting to watch this system grow. If any readers can comment on some of the issues that may have arisen with Performa repairs, or on-site repairs for non-Apple equipment, we'd love to hear from you since we will be watching Apple's new program closely.
Apple -- 800/767-2775