Symantec launches online PC tech support services

A new diagnostic service will offer remote technical assistance, while the company's tune-up service will tweak performance of the Windows operating system.

Symantec on Tuesday announced two premium online services that help tweak the performance of PC desktops through remote access by qualified technicians.

Both services are only available to customers using Windows XP and Vista, and are open to customers not currently using any Norton products.

One is a diagnostic service called PC Checkup for $29.99. "Think of it like taking your car to the auto dealership service," said Lenny Alugas, vice president of Norton Premium Services. The technician will perform a series of tests then inform the customer if additional services are necessary. The second premium service, PC Tune Up, is more invasive. At $69.99, the technician will run a diagnostic, then fine-tune the operating system for performance. Both services include "next step" recommendations so that customers can be aware of the causes and take better care of their PCs in the future.

The market for these services, a Symantec representative said, a skewed toward a female audience that is technical but doesn't have the time to figure out a problem by themselves. In 2007 Consumer Reports found that 1.8 million U.S. households had junked their PCs over the past two years simply because of performance problems.

"The biggest competitor in the market is friends and families of people who need to have their computers fixed," said Alugas. Other competition includes small PC repair shops and some of the larger electronics retailers that have tech benches.

When asked how the services complement or compare with software already sold by Symantec, Alugas said, "In Norton 360, we will delete your Internet cache or empty your recycle bin, but we don't try to manage your start-up items." He described the services as much more interactive.

The two services, along with Norton technical support (which is now free), use LogMeIn Rescue, a remote access client, that allows the Norton technician to manipulate the PC while you watch. The technician can simultaneously chat via text with the customer, querying about the uses of particular unused applications in memory or on the hard drive itself. Nothing is done without the customer being aware, said Alugas.

He said the services grew out of an observation that customers would often call for Norton technical support, then discover it wasn't a Norton problem but something eating up all their RAM or that they didn't have as much hard drive space as they thought. The two online services are organic to Norton and not the product of a recent acquisition by Symantec.

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