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Dell Computer gets personal

The PC maker has quietly begun an in-home service program, called the Home PC Installation program, to help customers set up newly bought PCs and peripherals.

Dell Computer is now making house calls.

The PC maker has quietly begun an in-home service program to help customers set up newly bought PCs and peripherals. The program, called the Home PC Installation program, also includes a brief introductory lesson on how a PC works. Prices range from $119 to $139, depending on the time of the appointment.

Dell previously offered setup services only for corporate customers. But as Dell's consumer base has grown to include more first-time PC buyers, the company said it saw increased demand for home setup services.

With competition in the PC market growing every day, companies seize any opportunity to grab and keep new buyers. Indeed, Dell executives have recently touted plans to double revenues by increasing sales of servers, business services and consumer PCs, especially in new markets.

But consumers, especially first-time buyers, inevitably require a little more attention than do PC enthusiasts or repeat customers. Dell hopes that customers see this new service as a way to save time and get up and running on a new PC faster.

"Over the past year, as we've started to increase our market share in the consumer business, we've tapped into a new set of customers," said Kurt Kirsch, director of new business for Dell's consumer business. "As we always do, we listened to the customers."

In-home services can be profitable. PC makers such as Gateway have turned to installation services, such as setting up wireless home networks, as a way to boost profits.

As part of the program, Dell calls a customer to set up the house call once a PC is shipped. Through an outside partner, Dell sends a technician to the home to assemble the hardware and connect up to three peripherals, such as a digital camera, a printer or a photo scanner. The technician will also provide a short introductory lesson, lasting up to 20 minutes, on how to operate the machine. The technician can also set up the user's Internet service provider service and configure an e-mail account.

The program is currently only available for customers in North America, according to the company.