Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) is offering a "virtual house call" service to users who have trouble getting their PCs to work
HP Instant Care, announced Monday, provides personalized service over the Internet. Customers can sit at their home PCs while remote workers defragment a hard drive or speed up booting time by deleting extra files in the Start Up menu.
HP's move follows remote IT services offered to business customers by Dell Inc. and Intel Corp. As PC prices continue to fall, some vendors are using improved customer service to differentiate their products in a crowded marketplace.
Dell has been expanding its customer service in an effort to turn around poor earnings results. In June, the company launched "DellConnect", an expansion of its TechConnect service allowing Dell service agents to troubleshoot customers' PCs using a broadband Internet link instead of a personal visit. Dell claims the approach will save time and money compared to the cost of dispatching technicians.
Likewise, remote monitoring is one of the cornerstones of Intel's vPro technology bundle for business desktops, launched in September. One ingredient of the bundle, Intel's Active Management Technology, allows IT managers to make fewer time-consuming "desk-side" visits by booting and repairing PCs remotely.
HP, Gateway Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd. have adopted the vPro platform in their business desktops. Dell offers a similar package in the OptiPlex 745 PC. HP Instant Care is free for HP customers whose computers are still under warranty and have purchased either PC Tune-up for US$99 or SmartFriend for $59.99.