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Over at Patently Apple, Jack Burcher Purcher reports that Apple (s aapl) is applying for a trademark called “Joint Venture.” The trademark application indicates that this will most likely be some kind of new service offering by Apple. Might Apple start providing on-site service just like Best Buy’s (s bby) Geek Squad?
The key clauses in the patent application seem to indicate this just might be the case:
“International Class 037: Maintenance, installation and repair of computer hardware, computer peripherals, computer networks, and consumer electronic devices; information, advisory and consultancy services relating to all the aforesaid.”
“International Class 042: Technical support and consulting services pertaining to computer hardware, computer peripherals, computer software and consumer electronics; troubleshooting and computer diagnostic services for computer hardware, computer peripherals, computer software and consumer electronic devices; consulting services in the field of selection, implementation and use of computer hardware and software systems for others.”
Would this be a good thing for Apple customers? Certainly being able to purchase additional on-site services directly from an Apple Store would be convenient. The Geniuses stay locked behind the bar (pun intended) and Apple relies on independent third-party sources who are often part of the Apple Consultants Network (ACN) or Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASP) to provide on-site service to Apple’s customers. For many of them, paying Apple directly to set up their Xserve or Airport Extreme may be a great idea and would be consistent with the offerings of big PC companies that provide end-to-end support for larger installations. Joint Venture members would be people trained by Apple, and specializing in Macs (unlike Best Buy’s on-site squad). It’s always possible that Apple could decide to have Joint Venture members be existing members of the ACN and AASP programs and the trademark could all be about branding.
If Apple opts for its own on-site “Genius Squad,” it would likely be biased towards Apple-approved solutions, utilizing equipment that Cupertino sells. This may limit the choice of customers and marginalize third-party vendors that don’t sell items in the Apple Store or web site. Currently AASPs and ACNs don’t work for Apple and don’t always recommend pure Apple solutions for their customers. If Apple entered into this territory, it could put some of these smaller independent companies out of business just as the Apple Stores did for independent Apple resellers.
Which is better? Independent support by non-Apple employees or on-site consultants who work for Apple? My vote, of course, is for independent solutions, but that’s because I’m a member of the ACN.
Then again, Apple may just be covering its bases should it ever decided to compete with, or limit, the AASP or ACN program. Apple’s silent on what it intends to do; the trademark filing is the only clue. Of course, I’m not sure which color shirt a potential “Genius Squad” would wear, either. Black turtlenecks would be too obvious.