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New support service fills the gap

In an effort to fill a gap in its customer support services, Microsoft unites with Digital and Hewlett-Packard to provide new support service aimed at mid-sized companies.

In an effort to fill a gap in its customer support services, Microsoft (MSFT) announced today a new alliance with Digital Equipment (DEC) and Hewlett-Packard (HWP) to provide a new service, Microsoft Authorized Support, aimed at mid-sized companies.

Microsoft Authorized Support, a scaled-down version of Microsoft's Premiere Support Service, will provide Windows NT support that combines the software and technology expertise of Microsoft and HP with DEC's enterprise support expertise, said the companies.

"There is a need for service dedicated to the mid-size enterprise, defined as 1,000 to 2,500 desktops," said Deborah Willingham, vice president of the enterprise customer unit at Microsoft, in a conference call today. "A large number of accounts fall into that segment and the traditional offerings are not best-suited to meet their needs."

Through multi-vendor service offerings and a direct relationship with Microsoft, the new service targets a price point that meets the mid-size enterprise's needs, Willingham added.

The service, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, includes a technical account manager (TAM) from DEC or HP who directly oversees customer support in order to reduce support costs and increase availability. If a problem escalates, than the HP or DEC TAM interacts with a Microsoft engineer to resolve the problem.

"Microsoft has acknowledged the importance of service," said Keith Butler, DEC vice president of sales and marketing. "This offer is enabling what customers demand: the best service."

"The open service model is unique and actually encourages customers to work with the service providers in the channel they had good experience with," said Willingham. "Microsoft will work cooperatively rather than competitively with HP and DEC."

The service, which starts at $29,000, features three core categories:

--Technical support: Phone-in assistance around the clock covering Microsoft business systems, desktop systems, desktop applications, and developer tools. Escalation management is backed by a Microsoft TAM.

-- Technical account management: Features remote personal-account management. Includes environment profile, orientation planning, monthly usage reports, and support advisories.

-- Technical services: Proactive information aimed at reducing management and support costs by preventing problems before they happen.

Both HP and DEC said that they will continue to offer the ancillary services that are part and parcel of their portfolio. Customers who buy the Microsoft Authorized Service package can still avail themselves of the companies' other services if the need arises.

Microsoft indicated that, if the demand for this service meets expectations, the company expects to form additional alliances with other companies who are already Microsoft support centers.