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04.10.28 imac fix-it-your self

You Broke It, You Fix It
By Leander Kahney

02:00 AM Oct. 28, 2004 PT

With the new iMac G5, Apple Computer has outsourced its warranty repair
operation -- to its customers.

The iMac G5 is completely user serviceable. With its simplified,
modular interior, the machine was designed to make it easy for
consumers to perform their own repairs.

If something goes wrong, Apple dispatches a spare part, and the owner
performs the do-it-yourself repair, from swapping out a faulty hard
drive to installing a new flat screen.

The new iMac is perhaps the most user-serviceable machine on the
market. But Apple is not alone in outsourcing repairs to customers.

The entire PC industry is increasingly moving to do-it-yourself
repairs. Almost a third of the repairs to Hewlett-Packard's desktop
computers, for example, are performed by HP's customers. The company
expects that number to climb to more than 65 percent in the next few
years.

Apple, HP and most of the other computer manufacturers still offer to
perform warranty repairs on customers' behalf, but more and more
customers are opting to repair their machines themselves -- a cultural
shift highlighting the growing ease and familiarity with technology
products.

"We've demystified computers for a whole generation," said Jim Kemp,
HP's director of Americas Consumer Support, Planning and
Infrastructure. "There's savings (to HP), of course, but it's really
about customer satisfaction. People love it. It's quick. It's easy.
It's painless."

Both HP and Apple offer customers several choices for repair service:
send in the faulty machine, take it to an authorized repair shop or fix
it yourself.

"I think it is a good idea to have the opportunity to do it yourself,"
said Laurent, a French Mac user who declined to give his last name.

Laurent recently fixed his iMac's faulty power supply. After a
telephone consultation with an engineer to diagnose the problem, a
package was dispatched overnight containing the spare part,
instructions and tools.

"It was extremely easy and fast," said Laurent. "When you open the back
of an iMac G5, you feel confident. Everything is well-designed and
organized."

"It avoids having your Mac away for days and having to pack it back
into a shipping box," he added. "I really preferred to do it myself."

The list of user-serviceable parts in the iMac G5 includes the hard and
optical drives, power supply, display and the main logic board
including the processor.

In addition, the iMac has four diagnostic LEDs on the motherboard which
tell if power is getting through to the logic board and the flat
screen.

Self-service has been common for years in the upper sectors of the
computer market. Server companies, for example, routinely rely on
corporate IT technicians to perform basic repairs.

But the do-it-yourself approach has become common among consumers only
recently.

The trend means certain savings for manufacturers. "If you're shipping
your computer back to fix a mouse, there's a big saving, of course,"
said HP's Kemp.

But PC companies insist they are making the move toward self-service
because customers actually prefer to fix their machines themselves.

Kemp said HP's self-service program was instituted after the company's
merger with Compaq in 1999, and has grown quickly. He said it was
conceivable that in the future, 85 percent of desktop repairs would be
performed by customers, "but there will always be resistance from some
people."

David Daniels, research director at JupiterResearch, said there'd been
a significant increase in the last couple of years in customers happy
to perform their own customer service on the web.

Daniels said a May 2004 Jupiter survey of online consumers found 83
percent had done some general customer service research on the
internet, as opposed to picking up a phone or visiting a store.

"People are more willing to perform their own self-help, like searching
FAQs for answers," he said.

Daniels said customers are generally satisfied serving themselves, and
there's little evidence of a generation gap. If fact, older customers
are those most likely to be do-it-yourselfers, especially those between
the ages of 34 and 44.

"People who shop online use online self-service options," he said.
"They already have confidence in the internet."

Apple didn't respond to a request for comment.