Microsoft launches AnswerDesk.com for "premium" tech support

In a blaze of literally no publicity, Microsoft today launched AnswerDesk.com, its new round-the-clock ‘premium’ technical support service, which aims to provide assistance to customers experiencing issues with Microsoft software and services.

MS claims that the new site will give its users “the most convenient, friendly and easy way to get the most out of your PC”. Offering access to this support 24/7, 365 days a year, is a team of “Answer Techs”, Microsoft’s rip-off of homage to Apple’s pretentiously named “Geniuses”, who offer support to customers in Apple Stores worldwide.

Fusible reports that AnswerDesk.com visitors will be able to choose from a range of Answer Techs online, viewing their profiles, and checking out their experience and expertise - before presumably choosing the most attractive one available.

Microsoft also offers the Answer Desk in its retail locations, where a range of services is provided, including hardware installation, software upgrades and data back-up. Services have also been made available to customers remotely, and these are expected to form the foundations of the new AnswerDesk.com offerings – but they certainly come at a price.

Getting an Answer Tech to sweep your system for viruses/malware and install the free Microsoft Security Essentials software on your system will set you back $99. Sure, you don’t have to leave your home or office for them to sort it out for you – it’s all done remotely through the magic of the interwebs – but that’s still a pretty big chunk of change.

An “Advanced PC Tune-Up” will also cost you $99 – this too involves installing Security Essentials, but additionally, the techie will remotely “run Disk Cleanup and remove temporary Internet files”, disable “unnecessary services and applications” and run Windows Update. Bargain.

A one-year subscription to “Premium Tech Support” is also available for $199, and unless Microsoft plans to dramatically change the way the whole service works, this will probably be a key part of the new AnswerDesk.com offering. ‘Probably’ remains the key word here, as Microsoft hasn’t issued any press releases or marketing material yet about the new site, despite it going live several hours ago, after a week of final testing under password protection.  

Microsoft has registered numerous international domains, including AnswerDesk.fr, AnswerDesk.jp and AnswerDesk.tw, but these sites are not yet active - and any visitors outside of the US attempting to visit AnswerDesk.com are told that such premium treats are for American eyes only:

I guess us non-Americans will just have to take our money elsewhere... Maybe some place where we’re not going to get ripped off while someone installs free software on our laptops and calls it a “premium service”.

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My local ISP just launched a similiar thing, but instead of per incident charges, there is a monthly charge that covers X number of incidents.

Gees the concept of a paid help desk for a company is hardly something apple invented. Again apple gets credit for common sense and widely used practices in technology that they did not come up with.

They say third time is a charm, and this is MS third try at this, beating everyone else to the punch.


1997-1998 (OnCall Beta For Windows 98)
2001-2003 (MS One Call for Windows XP)

What a terrible editorial. You are so caught up in your consternation and bias that you completely missed the unique aspect of the site - as a directory of personalized Techs that you can utilize under a standard service fee.

This news article is too opinionated. If Andy wants to critique it, then it should be done in a separate article. Then again, what do you expect from a site with the tag line 'unprofessional journalism'.

Whoever wrote this article apparently has no idea what the actual cost of hands-on tech support is. $99 for these little errands is pretty standard fare, especially when you take into consideration hours worked.

There may be concerns about a user's ability to initiate a remote desktop session, but I honestly think it's not nearly as complicated as installing software. Remote solutions have been reduced to a simple matter of "Here's a file, type in this password".

And FWIW--offering tech support is not inherently ripping off Apple. Apple did not invent tech support. Apple did not invent the concept of a "support hotline" "support desk" or "answer". When you provide technological solutions, you support the people who adopt them online as well as over the phone. If anything, I'm pretty well sure remote desktop support is something Apple does NOT do, and if this somehow rips them off simply by virtue of having 'real people' providing 'real time support', then holy frackle, Apple was being ripped off before Steve Jobs was even born!

I get that Neowin pays contributors based on clicks and stuff, but if all you care about is trolling people, write about religion and politics. At least for those topics, most of us have given up any hope of hearing reasoned opinions. But for technology, we actually still GENERALLY care about the content.

Edited by Joshie, Dec 8 2011, 1:38pm :

Actually, I'm more than aware of the inflated prices that companies charge for what often amounts to very little work. $99 for these tasks may be considered standard fare, but any sensible breakdown of the hours worked tends to reflect very poor value for money.

If we take the virus check and removal service, we're looking at a few minutes to set up the remote desktop, and then a few minutes more to install the free software and set it off. In the overwhelming majority of cases, no further work will be needed by the techie - Security Essentials will do its job, remove any threats, and that's $99 in the bank for a largely automated process.

Of course, the market has established a rate for these services - and Microsoft is setting its prices based upon the rate that the market is willing to pay. But that doesn't mean that these services represent good value for money given what you're actually paying for, and it certainly doesn't mean that Microsoft is worthy of congratulation here.

Rather than seize the opportunity to disrupt a fairly stagnant market sector, whether by offering something genuinely innovative or competing aggressively on price, Microsoft has simply joined the masses in offering another "me-too" service. Again, this is not really something to get excited about, nor something that Microsoft deserves a big round of applause for. It's not something that the market is crying out for; it's just an extra player in a market sector that has established a comfortable price level based upon the knowledge that those who use the service are too ignorant to know any better. The market may tell us that these prices are reasonable; but any computer literate person will tell you that $99 to install some free software on your computer and run an automated scan is taking the p!ss. Microsoft isn't to blame for that in any way, but it is joining the party, and that's not really worth a round of applause.

Also, nothing in my article remotely implied that Apple invented tech support on any level. Any comparisons with Apple were specifically related to the Genius Bar - which is virtually identical in concept and appearance to Microsoft's in-store Answer Desk; and the Geniuses - who are, again in concept and style, clearly the inspiration behind the Answer Techs. In fact, this really should have been clear here:

"Offering access to this support 24/7, 365 days a year, is a team of “Answer Techs”, Microsoft's [rip-off of] homage to Apple's pretentiously named “Geniuses”, who offer support to customers in Apple Stores worldwide."

Note: "in Apple Stores worldwide". Not "on support hotlines" worldwide, or any other variation.

If you can't see the similarities between Genius Bar/Geniuses and Answer Desk/Answer Techs, then I'd respectfully suggest that you're in denial. And if you care about the content as much as you say, then you should read the content more carefully before criticising it.

Finally, please don't assume that the content of an article is the sum total of any writer's knowledge on a particular subject.

So anything thats released now by Microsoft which has similarities something Apple has done its immediately a "rip off of Apple". BUT if Apple does something that has similarities to Microsoft or even Google its hailed as a triumph of innovation and "magical" and "revolutionary".

sam232 said,
So anything thats released now by Microsoft which has similarities something Apple has done its immediately a "rip off of Apple". BUT if Apple does something that has similarities to Microsoft or even Google its hailed as a triumph of innovation and "magical" and "revolutionary".

Neowin's news has gone down hill in the last year or two. From the heavy opinions to news items that are just 6 sentences stretched to fit 3 paragraphs.

Not really, no.

But there's no way of getting around the fact that the Answer Desk and its Answer Techs are a very obvious take on Apple's Genius Bar/Geniuses. What's wrong with pointing that out and having a bit of fun with that?

I don't for a moment believe that everything that Apple does is magical or revolutionary; in fact, it makes me both laugh and vomit in equal measures when Apple trails to claim its devices are magical.

The problem isn't the existence of an anti-Microsoft, pro-Apple conspiracy or agenda; it's that certain people get really, really p!ssed off and lose all sense of perspective when you say something against their 'team'. Hence why I get called an Apple fanboy when I say anything remotely in favour of Apple's products, a Google fanboy for praising Ice Cream Sandwich, a Microsoft fanboy for praising Windows Phone etc.

Some people just find it difficult to accept that others may disagree with them. Other people just need to get a sense of humour - or a sense of perspective. Making a reference to Microsoft's obvious rip-off of the Genius Bar does not mean I love everything about Apple and I want to marry them. It just means that Microsoft ripped off the Genius Bar.

Let's learn to live with that.

gcaw said,
Not really, no.

But there's no way of getting around the fact that the Answer Desk and its Answer Techs are a very obvious take on Apple's Genius Bar/Geniuses.
Let's learn to live with that.

Have your fun, the stores, and the answer desk, were GATEWAYS fortay, LONG before Apple. In case it matters, which it doesn't.

Well indeed, that's a good point - I recall way back when visiting the Gateway 2000 store in London for tech support.

This again gets back to people taking to heart the idea that Apple did/did not invent the concept of on-site or remote technical support. (For anyone still in doubt about that fact, they didn't, by the way.) But put Gateway's in-store support offering next to the Genius Bar or Answer Desk, and you'll see very few similarities.

But put the Genius Bar and Answer Desk alongside each other, and the similarities - in design, layout, implementation, approach, staffing - are obvious to anyone with eyes.

gcaw said,
But put the Genius Bar and Answer Desk alongside each other, and the similarities - in design, layout, implementation, approach, staffing - are obvious to anyone with eyes.

Maybe. Maybe not. We can't judge until it rolls out.

gcaw said,
But put the Genius Bar and Answer Desk alongside each other, and the similarities - in design, layout, implementation, approach, staffing - are obvious to anyone with eyes.
Excuse my language, but what a bunch of rubbish. You can say exactly the same about any supermarket check-out. Or a bar with stools. Or behind the wheels of a car. You wanna know why? Because it works the best for the situation. Not because they ripped anyone off.

This article is quite sad.

I do this sort of work to service computers onsite for a slightly higher price, there is definitely a market for people who see value in having their computers looked after for them rather than having to worry about it themselves. Unfortunately I see three limitations with this service from Microsoft, 1: They presumably are limited to only using Microsoft sanctioned tools to get the job done so the amount of work they can do would be quite limited and 2: The target market is the sort of person who is looking for a 1-to-1 relationship with their computer technician rather than having someone else each time who may or may not undo what the previous technician did, and 3: If they are are the computer skills level of having someone service the computer for them, then they might not feel comfortable about setting up remote support and may even have a 'fear' because they can't see who is controlling the computer and are therefore skeptical of what they are going to do (or are scared that it is somebody "from overseas" who "doesn't know what they are doing".

Simon- said,
I do this sort of work to service computers onsite for a slightly higher price, there is definitely a market for people who see value in having their computers looked after for them rather than having to worry about it themselves. Unfortunately I see three limitations with this service from Microsoft, 1: They presumably are limited to only using Microsoft sanctioned tools to get the job done so the amount of work they can do would be quite limited and 2: The target market is the sort of person who is looking for a 1-to-1 relationship with their computer technician rather than having someone else each time who may or may not undo what the previous technician did, and 3: If they are are the computer skills level of having someone service the computer for them, then they might not feel comfortable about setting up remote support and may even have a 'fear' because they can't see who is controlling the computer and are therefore skeptical of what they are going to do (or are scared that it is somebody "from overseas" who "doesn't know what they are doing".
i like your point about somebody who woud actually need the service being scared or unable to set up remote access

As Simon- Said, most of the people who I have dealt with for this sort of thing want you to come out to there House/Work to do this for them(which was good getting out of the office), they will not accept you doing it remotely. But there is the odd few who find it expectable.