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Microsoft tweaks support program

Microsoft is fine-tuning its customer support services for consumers, small businesses, and corporations in an effort to take the pain out of personal computing.

Microsoft is fine-tuning its customer support services for consumers, small businesses, and corporations in an effort to take the pain out of personal computing.

Today, the company announced that its new AnswerPoint framework will offer new support pricing and software options for consumers, developers, and small businesses that use Standard and Priority technical support.

For corporate users, Microsoft introduced new Information Technology planning services, as well as Premier Watch, a service that allows Microsoft to proactively monitor a company's Windows NT Server and BackOffice applications.

Among the new AnswerPoint options, the company is shipping Microsoft AnswerStation, a remote-software program for Windows 95 users that allows Microsoft technicians to take over and diagnose problems with a user's PC via modem. The software, which can be the downloaded for free from the company's Web site, requires a VoiceView-enabled modem so that users and technicians can switch between data and voice communications on a support call. Users must give their consent before turning over control to a technician.

Other changes to Microsoft's support policies include:
--Microsoft Access users must now pay for support after two calls. Users of all other desktop applications still get unlimited free support.
--Off-hour technical support now costs $35 per incident, up from $25.