The US headquarters of several PC makers, including Hewlett-Packard and Dell, say they are reconsidering their warranty policies - a move that would pass on more of those costs to users. For the moment the trend seems confined to the US, but it may soon have implications nearer to home.
Industry watchers say users are already on the alert; some say they are seeing slower turnaround times for repairs, slimmer warranties and pre-mium fees for product support.
Internet forums are also crawling with complaints: users are griping about everything from pricey technical support, to machines that never worked, to machines that come back from the repair shop still not working.
For example, a Compaq source in the US confirms the company requires a credit card number from users before it will provide technical assistance. The charge isn't posted once the company confirms the customer is still under warranty. Compaq points out that other vendors also charge for this type of service.
"I know that many vendors are planning to eradicate or reduce warranties as a way to cut costs," said Andrew Seybold, a consultant and editor of Outlook on Communication and Computing. "In a commodity market, margins are something that suffer. And this is a way to make your margins," he said.
"Users are going to have to accept the fact that they are going to have to start paying for technical services, that it will no longer be bundled in. Of course, the quality of support will have to go up if customers are paying for it," said Elena Christopher, an analyst at Dataquest.
Christopher says that in 1994, vendors spent an average of 3.5 per cent of total product revenue, or about $US43.5 million, providing service and support.