• 06.01.10

iYogi,, Geek Squad Battle for the Tech Support Title

As gear support goes virtual, how do two upstarts fare against Best Buy’s Geek Squad?

iYogi,, Geek Squad Battle for the Tech Support Title

Tackling computer glitches yourself is so 2008. “About 15% of home computers are infected with malware so fixing them has gone the way of lawn-mower service — it’s no longer a do-it-yourself thing,” says Kurt Scherf, a technology analyst with Parks Associates. Scherf estimates Americans spent a whopping $4 billion on tech support last year. That number should grow to at least $6.4 billion by 2013, and remote help is poised to drive much of that expansion. An early look at the fight:

  iYogi Geek Squad
Service offering $140 per year; one-time fixes start at $20; 24/7 remote support. PC only. $199 per year; one-time fixes start at $49; 24/7 remote support. PC only. Walk-in help desks at all 1,070 Best Buys; house calls; and oh yeah, remote help. Both PC and Mac.
Target demographic/translation 50+, well-to-do, “later users,” i.e., older people having problems accessing the Google. 30+, middle income, “tech pragmatic,” i.e., business pros who value their time. “Service-minded civilians,” i.e., people who will pay $40 to get a quick tune-up on a brand-new Mac.
Aspirations “We want to be the FedEx of support,” says CEO Uday Challu. “We are Geek Squad over the Internet,” says CEO Josh Pickus. Er, it already is Geek Squad.
Meet your IT guy More than 3,000 “yogis” in call centers in India 600 “solutions engineers” in home offices in North America 20,000 “agents” in stores; about 100 virtual agents in the U.S.
Oddest feature Technician profiles come with phonetic pronunciations of their names. A message board allows the tech-needy to answer questions for each other. You can pick your own agent via an online profile, just like Internet dating!
Annual growth (revenue) 200% to 300% (estimated $70-to-$80 million in fiscal 2011) 157% ($17.5 million in 2009) Best Buy doesn’t break out data (estimated $1-to-$1.5 billion in 2009)
Final take Low-cost leader U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Drivers only

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.