IBM announced Wednesday plans to offer automated technical support services via the Internet for corporate customers that purchase its notebooks, desktops, workstations and servers.
By June of 2001, IBM's ThinkPad notebooks, NetVista desktops, IntelliStation workstations and eServer xSeries systems will come bundled with an automated diagnostic tool from Support.com. A free downloadable version of the Support.com software will be available on IBM's Web site for older IBM Intel-based systems.
Support.com's software can be configured to automatically diagnose and fix problems such as inaccurate network settings and IP address changes. The software supports self-service by walking end users through the steps required to solve their own system problems. If a problem can't be fixed, the end user can connect live to a specialist at IBM or a corporate help desk. The specialist can use the software to return an end user's computer system to an earlier functioning mode.
Popular with large corporations, Support.com's software is used by Cisco Systems, JCPenney, General Electric and Bear, Stearns.
With Wednesday's deal, IBM becomes the largest hardware company to license Support.com's software. IBM competitors Compaq, Dell and Hewlett-Packard offer similar capabilities from Support.com rival Motive Communications.
"This is a significant enhancement to our overall e-services infrastructure," says David Hume, director of technical support for IBM's Personal Systems Group. "Now we can start to deliver proactive, automated eSupport services...With Support.com's software, we can give our customers very robust, high-availability offerings."
Hume says IBM will roll out additional fee-based services around the Support.com software later this year including a backup recovery and restore service and a managed local-area network service.
"Over time, you'll see an integration of our system management tools with the Support.com toolset," Hume adds.
IBM's technical support Web site, however, will remain the same. IBM hopes its customers won't have to point and click their way through the site as often once the Support.com software is installed on their machines.
IBM is testing the Support.com software with several of its large customers including a chemical manufacturer and a financial services firm. IBM's internal help desk and its outsourcing division are also reviewing the technology, Hume says.