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.
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Vista issue Support.com has been dealing with, at 26 percent of all Vista-related support calls, is printers that have outdated drivers or other compatibility issues with Vista, said Marc Itzkowitz, director of product marketing at Support.com.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.
Next Page: 99 percent of Vista-related issues are resolved during the first call.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.
He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.
He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.
He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.
He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.
He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.
His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.
For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.