The dust had hardly settled from last month's announcements of the Apple Assurance program, offering more comprehensive support and repair options to Macintosh owners, when Apple announced another innovation, the new AppleCare Premium plan. The plan currently covers the new Apple Workgroup Servers and provides faster service response time for users who can't afford to have their servers down.
The two premium options, intended to supplement the Workgroup Servers' one-year limited warranty, are Four-Hour Response and Next Business Day Response. The goal of the former is to have a qualified technician and the necessary service parts on-site within four business hours after Apple has determined that a service dispatch is required, and the goal of the latter (as you probably guessed) is to have the technician and parts on-site the next business day after Apple has determined that a service dispatch is required. Suggested retail prices for these options are $480 and $240 respectively.
The AppleCare Premium service is available between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM local time, within a 60-mile radius of participating Apple service locations. As a result, Apple says that activation of the four-hour option may require up to thirty days notice so the company can bring a local service provider up to readiness or add that region to its internal service network. (Apple says that most of the service calls will be handled by Apple itself, rather than by dealers' service technicians.)
Apple says these plans are intended to augment, not replace, service options that individual dealers provide. Many dealers already offer special service contracts to their customers, providing fast response time, guaranteed resolution time, loaners, etc. In fact, MicroAge, one of the companies with a number of affiliated Apple resellers, is in the process of creating a network of its affiliates and franchises that provide premium service around the country. MicroAge plans to offer service contracts to large corporations with many locations, providing comprehensive service for all branch offices through the local affiliate in each area.
For companies with mission-critical information on their servers, a day or two repair delay might be crippling. The new AppleCare Premium options indicate Apple's realistic approach to providing service for such customers, and, we hope, will encourage resellers to restructure their own service offerings so as to provide similar, or even better, options for their own customers. For resellers who feel Apple is stealing their thunder, new service options that come to mind include:
Administrated data backup
Backup equipment standing by
24-hour emergency response
Comprehensive help-desk service
Equipment registration and engraving
Obviously some of these options would be expensive, but for users who are too busy to maintain their own backups, or not interested in the drudgery of keeping track of all equipment on the premises, they could be valuable services.
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