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Independence in a corporate age

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Independence in a corporate age....

As a neutral provider of IT support and help we get to see IT life from all perspectives. We work with Linux, Mac, Windows, Novell, IBM, Acer, HP, Dell etc etc ... providing the best possible support and help for our customer - vendor neutral - best fit solutions. Along the way we get to talk to most of the IT vendors / providers in the process of trying to sort out issues for our customers.

Here is one story - trying to help a customer without selling our soul:

A guy, I'll call him Sam, walked into our workshop with a dead Compaq Laptop. The laptop is less than two years old and the hard drive had suffered catastrophic failure. It will not live again and is a fault directly attributable to manufacturers fault or hardware failure - not the user. 

After diagnosing the problem we provided a new hard drive and started the process of trying to install the Vista operating system again. Here is where the fun starts. With the original hard drive dead - there is no recovery partition. Therefore we need installation media. The drivers can be downloaded from Compaq/HP but a version of Vista Business installation media was required. Phoning Microsoft pointed us back at the manufacturer. Phoning the manufacturer gave us the options of having them charge a fortune to the customer to re-image the pc (remember it died as a result of manufacturer fault) but they will not provide installation media or recovery disks. The option they gave was to purchase another (retail) version of Vista and install that. Hmm - their customer already has Vista - why would they buy another? Well we don't provide media - have you talked to Microsoft? Yes ... and they told me to talk to you...

Needless to say that conversation is currently escalated to the customer experience team where a gentle reminder of the phrase "fit for purpose" and consumer protection act will probably be invoked. The warranty might have expired after one year but a PC that dies that quickly owing to manufacturers fault runs foul of the consumer protection act. Still - that's a side thought.

On to Microsoft - this episode made me realise a set of Vista disks would be very handy to have. I already am deluged in XP and Office disks from years of buying that OS and product but Vista - we only have three flavours of it - and not the one the customer needed. The customer has the license but having the installation media would be very very handy. We are getting more Vista jobs and so need to have the media around for recovery or reinstall. 

My options -

  • Buy a full set of OEM Vista disks (ie home, home premium, business, business premium , ultimate etc)

  • Get a set of installation media disks from Microsoft without license so we can support their customers

  • Pirate disks off the net

My wallet yelled at me when it saw the price of buying a copy of each version of the Os so I decided that talking to Microsoft might be worth it - after all there must be a squazillion people like me around the world fixing Microsoft OS based Pcs and needing installation media.  At that point it all went horribly wrong.

Browsing the MS site to look at how to purchase these things lead me to the partner program. Two hours of study later I was more confused than ever, had no prices to work from and still had no idea if I could get vista installation media for use with my customers.  I did however know how to get lots of info on upselling MS product. I decided to phone Microsoft. Other than the fact that - the girl on the other end seemed incapable of understanding my simple request on how to purchase OEM installation media or join something that allows me to get this media, I finally got it figured out. I am told I need to join a partner program.

However (this is where selling my soul comes into play) to be an MS partner I need to sign up that I will use the media and software required internally in my business, undertake to push a certain percentage of my sales as Microsoft product and commit to being audited as doing such. HUH???  So I explained - NO!!! I am independent. My goal is to help my customers independent of alliances with big corporates so I can choose the best product to use for them without vendor bias towards one corporate giant or another. Also as a PC repair person I don't sell software, it comes pre-installed as OEM from the manufacturer and I am not gogin to take up software development just so I can join as an ISV. Besides which my Linux server and Lotus Notes mail system hasn't crashed in three years where as my exchange server – well it certainly has - ... nuff said. Did I mention viruses about here as well? I work in a virus rich environment and Ms products dont meet my internal business needs in many cases.

End result - stalemate. If anyone knows how to get hold of OEM / Installation media for Microsoft product without selling ones soul - please let me know.

Microsoft - You big dummies - If you don't support people who are supporting your clients who have purchased your product then it is going to hurt you - - making customers buy second and third versions of a product they have already paid for just peeves them off. When your updates mess up an OS and it needs reinstalled - that really does rack a customer off - then making thme purchase media so they can fix the issue - that's adding insult to injury. And your tech peopel regularly say that is the only option.

Now Linux - anything goes wrong on a Linux box and I can download installation media and reinstall - that's real support for the end user. Apple? They provide media with the hardware. That's real support. Microsoft - you just make us pay and pay and pay - that's just bad business and an insult. HP, Compaq, Dell - take note of what Apple does - they provide media - it only costs them about $0.50 per machine. Take a hint you cheap skates - media is gold to the end user and flings mud at you when you don't provide it. It is costing you sales and consumer love when you money grub on media for the sake of 50c worth of disk and plastic.

Microsoft - we aren't talking piracy here - these customers I am talking about have already purchased your product. The CDs are floating around - all that matters in the long run is the license they purchased. How about throwing those of us who don't want to kowtow to being joined at the hip, and paying you for the privilege of being your vassals, a bone so we can make you guys look better? Just a thought. I don't mind paying a reasonable price for media - its the attached strings and product slavery that really rip my undies.

In the mean time - where is that installer for ultra torrent? Pirate Bay? Here I come.

Other related posts:
Blacklists, black holes and and staying in the black
Would you trust these people with your money?

Comment by stuartm, on 26-Mar-2009 19:51

OK... there are so many things wrong with this post, I don't know where to start....
First of all, you should be able to use any Vista media and install it with the OEM key that you have.
Secondly, it's definitely worth your while joining the Microsoft Partner program - even if it's just as a registered member. There are lots of benefits to joining the Partner program such as free training, sales promotions, and access to enhanced support with Microsoft software. But if you want to stay 'independent' then you should also join the Novell Partner programme, or the Red Hat one, or the Sun one. Being a partner with a supplier doesn't necessarily mean that you favour that particular supplier, it just means that you recognise the value of working with them to provide the best solution for your customers. 
Thirdly, I would recommend to any IT Pro who supports or installs Mcrosoft software to purchase a TechNet Plus Direct subscription for $570 which gives you access to ALL of Microsoft's software for you to download and test/install, plus there's lots of technical training material and early access to beta software. And if you are a member of the Partner program, then there are often promotions that can get you free subscriptions.
So basically, there is no reason for the customer to have to purchase anything to get his computer working. If you don't have the tools to support Microsoft software then the customer should go elsewhere. It's really not hard to get hold of a Vista disk. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but the problem is more with your lack of understanding rather than the support that Microsoft can provide.

Comment by Ann, on 27-Mar-2009 04:54

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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Shane Hollis
New Zealand

Shane started Virusbusters twelve years ago to provide fixed price IT support for home users.

Daily battles through the world of viruses, spammers and other malware has left an indelible impression on him so he decided to try to give back some of the help he has received over time.

Hopefully crazy ideas, virus removal tips and other help can be found in this new blog. who knows, it might even be worth reading one day.