If you want proof that PC hardware is reliable, look no further than today's Fujitsu Siemens UK announcement that owners of the company's Scenic range of desktops will now be offered a four-year on-site warranty.
Well, so you'd think, but the deal isn't as straightforward as it sounds. Only two Scenic lines are supported: the N and P series. FS' These desktop PCs ship with a three-year on-site warranty. To get the extra year's warranty, you have to register with FS within 90 days of purchasing your system, so you'll have had to have bought your system on or after 1 February. The offer closes on 30 June. The extra year's warranty is free of charge.
The relatively short duration of the offer - FS calls it a "pilot programme" - suggests that this is really a marketing exercise designed to persuade businesses who want to keep their existing PCs running a little longer that they should upgrade. FS is targeting companies, particularly SMEs, who upgraded for Y2K and are coming to the end of their three-year tax write-down period. Many SMEs keep their PCs going long after that time.
Buy one of our systems now, and thanks to our four-year warranty, you'll get an extra year's safe use out of it, is the carrot FS is dangling in front of them.
To ram home the point that PCs become a liability after three years, FS' press release and marketing collateral is full of stuff like this: "In our research we found that many of our SME customers have PCs that are out of warranty - exposing them to the risk of repair costs... SME businesses are also aware that older PCs running older operating systems are potentially more susceptible to virus attacks."
The irony of the last sentence is that, while true, it is nevertheless irrelevant - hardware warranties don't cover the effects of viruses, any more than they cover you for, say, accidentally erasing your own hard drive. Warranties cover you for faulty parts and labour, not user-inflicted damage. As FS' own warranty terms state: "Defects that are caused by improper use are excluded from the warranty" and "the warranty of Fujitsu Siemens Computers does not include the restoration of customer data or software."
But what about the "risk of repair costs"? Yes, that is a risk. But businesses often either have service contracts that include such costs, or they chuck out failed systems and buy new ones because it's cheaper. Failures of construction or components usually emerge fairly quickly after purchase. Systems do malfunction over time, but this is often down to factors like dust clogging the cooling fan or wear and tear, and are not covered by warranty in any case.
In short all the problems that FS implies its four-year warranty will provide you with peace of mind over are issues that the warranty isn't going to help you with. It's point that upgrading will make for a safer, better user experience is true, but it'll be just as true in three or four years' time. There's also a contradiction between suggesting people upgrade and offering warranties that imply they don't need to.
It's also worth remembering that PC hardware is pretty reliable these days. That's why retailer John Lewis offers two-year warranties with all PCs its sell, for example. It knows that relatively few users will take advantage of the extra year's cover, so there's no big financial impact while at the same time it provides a differentiator against rival retailers offer only a single year's cover.
Incidentally, it's also the reason why extended warranty contracts offer such poor value for punters and juicy profits for retailers.
Nick Eaves, FS UK's marketing chief, claims that the company expects "around two-thirds" of its customers to claim under the four-year warranty, which sounds like it's going to be an expensive game for FS. Then again, with so few businesses buying desktops at the moment, it clearly believes the gamble is justified.
Will the move drive sales? A poll taken earlier this year of FS' SME customers showed that they value in a new PC longer warranty above faster processors, more RAM and bigger hard drives, said Eaves. The implication is clear: they want machines that they can safely use for longer before upgrading. The trouble is, upgrading is exactly what FS is encouraging them to do. And four years down the line, users who haven't needed to invoke the warranty may be even less likely to feel the need to upgrade than they do now.
But that's another upgrade cycle... ®