Local users of Microsoft products may find telephone support charges dramatically increased early next year, as the software giant takes steps to get more customers online.
The software giant announced in the US last week that it planned to eliminate free telephone support on September 14, geared to align with the release of new versions of Windows 98 and Windows Me.
From that date, users of Office, Windows 98 and Windows 2000 would be entitled to only two telephone support "incidents" free of charge, the company said in a statement. After that, all US Microsoft patrons would be charged a flat rate of $US35 per support call. Previously, US customers were freely entitled to unlimited telephone support for the first 90 days after purchase, the company said.
Microsoft Australia's director of product support, Hugh Jones, said the pricing boost was designed to entice users away from support via telephone and towards support via the internet -- a move toward what he described as a less "labour intensive" support environment for Microsoft staff.
Jones confirmed that the software company had already indicated to its Australian operation that it "wants a uniform policy globally".
Accordingly, Microsoft Australia will conduct consumer research, with a possible view to introducing revised telephone support pricing structures from January 1, 2001, Jones said. Microsoft Australia was under no pressure from US operations to align the pricing review with the release of the new software on September 14, he said.
Jones stressed that any changes to local support pricing structures would be sensitive to local market conditions.
The company's existing local support pricing structure was not as focused on free telephone support as the company's US operation.
"Generally, (Australia) doesn't have a high level of free support anyway," he said.
For telephone support with Microsoft locally, customers already pay a standard charge of $42 per call, Jones pointed out. Calls pertaining to product defects, software bugs and installation problems were exempt from the charge, he said.