Microsoft cutting free phone support

Microsoft Corp. wants customers to get support for Windows and Office online, and the company is boosting the cost of telephone support in hopes of nudging them in that direction.

As of Sept. 14, the day Microsoft is set to launch the next version of Windows 98 and Windows Me, the company will only offer free support for Office, Windows 98, and Windows 2000 for two “incidents.” Free support for Windows 95 and Office 95 will be abolished in favor of a “paid-only assisted support model,” the company said in a statement.

Microsoft now provides free unlimited support for Office; and, currently, telephone support is free and unlimited for Windows for the first 90 days after installation.

Now, once free calls are used up, telephone support will cost users US$35 per incident, according to a Microsoft representative. An “incident” sometimes takes more than one phone call to resolve, and “the customer will only be charged $35 until that issue is resolved,” the representative said.

The support pricing changes apply to software purchased through retail outlets or downloaded over the Internet, according to Microsoft.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company said its users are going to its Web site,,. more often for support. In fiscal 2001, which began July 1, the company is anticipating 200 million customer visits to its support site, the representative said. In fiscal 2000, the Microsoft support site was hit 140 million times.