As PCs increasingly become commodities and vendors struggle to define themselves in the marketplace, services and support have become the new battleground.
Compaq's bid to acquire Digital last month demonstrates how PC vendors are scrambling to bring in qualified service and support specialists, extend their offerings, and broaden their field organisations to obtain highly lucrative corporate contracts.
"This Compaq/Digital deal is part of a huge wave of consolidation that we are in the middle of," says Roger Kay, a PC market analyst at IDC. "This moves Compaq out of the box vendor category, opposite Dell, and puts them in the enterprise league."
Which means that Compaq will join the likes of IBM and Hewlett-Packard which already offer hardware and software consulting services.
IBM is working on a triage system for its nine worldwide call centres, routing the calls to specialists according to the type of problem.