Windows Vista has created a growing market for online tech support startups.
As consumers gradually upgrade to Windows Vista, tech support firms are beginning to field an increasing number of calls from consumers looking for help with Microsofts new operating system.
"Vista-related tech support is currently a small but expanding part of our business," said Anthony Rodio, a senior vice president at SupportSoft, which runs Support.com, a site which aims to undercut in-home and in-store tech help services.
"As adoption rates continue to grow over the next year, and more consumers upgrade to the new system, we expect to see the number of Vista-related calls increase significantly," he said.
Click here to read more about how security is driving Vista adoption.
Support.com works by fielding calls from consumers, then connecting them through the Internet where their issue is diagnosed, and hopefully resolved, at a cost of between $29 and $99.
The biggest single Vista issue Support.com has been dealing with, at 26 percent of all Vista-related support calls, is printers that have outdated drivers or other compatibility issues with Vista, said Marc Itzkowitz, director of product marketing at Support.com.
But this is also one of the quickest issues to resolve, taking an average of just 10 minutes for Support.com staff to determine the version of the currently installed driver, find and install the most up-to-date driver on the computer, and test for conflicts between the new driver and existing drivers from other peripherals, he said.
A close second, accounting for some 23 percent of all Vista-related support calls, come from those consumers needing help upgrading to Vista, including installation difficulties, file transfer issues and making sure Vista works, Itzkowitz said.
To read more about the 40-million copies of Vista already sold, click here.
These issues take an average of between 30 and 90 minutes to resolve, depending on the number of items to be transferred and installed, and involve an upgrade assessment to ensure the computer meets Vistas requirements and which drivers may be incompatible and need to be upgraded.
Migrating from a non-Vista machine to a Vista machine involves using either Microsofts migration tool, an intermediate storage devicelike a memory stick or portable hard driveor a network connection to move over important documents and Internet Explorer bookmarks, he said.
The third biggest issue, accounting for 15 percent of all Vista support calls, is incompatible software. These calls average about 15 minutes, depending on download speeds, Itzkowitz said.
These calls involve determining the version of the currently installed software, checking for updates or newer editions of the software that supports Vista, and downloading those versions if the customer is willing to pay for that software upgrade.
Some 13 percent of the Vista support calls relate to difficulties with setting up a new network or reconfiguring an existing one. These calls usually take about 30 minutes to resolve for two computers and involve checking the workgroups for each of the computers on the network and ensuring that the customer is using the same workgroup for all computers on the network, he said.
99 percent of Vista-related issues are resolved during the first call.