Apple laid the first stages of JointVenture out to Apple Retail staff today and as West Coast employees exit the meetings we are getting our first information on the new small business program.  JointVenture will be launched on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

First the price: Apple will charge $499 for up to 5 users and $99 for each additional user/year.  They really want to hit the under 10-person organizations hard.  Apple thinks Microsoft is exposed in this area because small businesses of this size are more agile, aren’t as likely to be connected to a complicated Microsoft infrastructure and don’t have a dedicated IT person to steer them wrong.

That $500 is also on top of the 3-year Applecare (not instead of), but retail employees were told that they business customers could receive enough in discounts to offset some, if not all of the price of JointVenture.

What does that $500 buy you?

Right now, business customers must wait on line with all of the rest of the consumers at the Apple Genius Bar for support.  With Pro Care (Joint Venture is described as Pro Care on steroids), they get their machines set up for them software installed, connected to their mail servers, etc.  Joint Venture takes this a few steps further.  They now also get:

  • Prioritized Genius Bar – moved to the front of the line
  • Genius Bar phone calls.  Joint Venture customers can now call in support “geniuses” which will be business-focused call center employees.
  • If repairs take more than 24 hours, you get a loaner computer.
  • New Workshops will be offered in JointVenture – customized workshops where their staff can be taught how to get the most out of their Macs and how to grow their business effectively

These details are largely what was revealed last week, however, on-site visits weren’t part of the plan, at least not yet according to our tipsters.

One large concern of employees is that Joint Venture would disrupt the relationships that the stores had with the Apple Professional Consultants Network.  Apple Store Managers tried to delay those concerns and stress that they were still partners with Apple Professionals.

We’ve heard separately that this is just the first stage of Joint Venture and an expanding portfolio of services will be offered to bigger businesses as well.

Update: Here’s another tip, verbatim which largely corroborates the above

I was a the Apple meeting this evening, we had to shut all of our phones off.  JoinVenture is a way to keep our Business customers resolved of all problems.  It offers OnetoOne-esque features, such as business workshops (from beginning to advance business software/exchange server help).  Also, JointVenture allows businesses contact us in case of an emergency.  There will be a genius telephone that they can reach a genius member at for personal assistance.  If their computer needs to be worked on, for more than 24 hours, we will loan them a computer to use for the time being.  Also, we are going to be offering special training for businesses for all employees to come in and attend training seminars on a personal level.  I\’ll keep you updated the more information I get.  This will be rolling out March 2nd. It will also be renewable. And ProCare is gone now.

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