Apple has launched a new Joint Venture priority service plan to better serve small businesses. For the price of $499, Apple will offer specialized support for up to five clients for a year, which includes six hours of personal training, help with enterprise setup, configuration and even access to loaner units should machines need to be sent in for repair. Businesses covered under Joint Venture can bring any of the above products to Apple Stores for diagnostic assessments, or for proactive maintenance such as system updates and cleaning. Additional systems can also be added at $99 per year.
As a final enticement, businesses that sign up for Joint Venture will get priority service at Genius Bars, and the availability of phone support will certainly benefit small business owners. Interestingly, each "system" here does not refer to a single client device, but entails multiple types of Apple hardware subject to the limits outlined below.
According to a report by PC Magazine:
Each eligible system can include a Mac, two Cinema Displays, one iPhone, one iPod, one iPad, and Apple peripherals (such as a mouse, keyboard, trackpad, and a storage device).
Of course, detractors will note that customers who are not near an Apple store will be left pretty much disadvantaged where services such as configuration support and maintenance are concerned. In addition, loaner units are a moot point for businesses that purchase business-grade desktops, which typically come with one business-day on-site repair service at no additional cost. Certainly, the $499 savings can be used for enrolling in a fair number of computer classes for PC users, with ample money left over to pay someone to perform miscellaneous tasks such as transferring data between PCs.
And of course, as an exclusive provider, price and wait times for repair will be whatever Apple decides.
Still, businesses that have already decided to make a transition from PC to Mac are far more likely to find Joint Venture useful. I suppose only time will tell if Joint Venture will see more businesses make the switch to a Mac platform.