Apple unveils Joint Venture service for business owners

Apple on Thursday launched Joint Venture, a new program that offers personal training, specialized support, loaner Macs, and other premium services to businesses.

Joint Venture is similar to Apple’s One to One service, but tailored for the needs of businesses. The program is available when purchasing a new Mac; packages start at supporting five systems for $499 per year. For that price, Apple Business Team personnel will help businesses get their Macs, iPads, and iPhones set up, including transferring data from PCs and installing any additional software purchased from either Apple’s retail or online stores.

Each of the five eligible systems can include a Mac, up to two Cinema Displays, one iPhone, one iPod, one iPad, and Apple-branded peripherals like a mouse, keyboard, trackpad, and a storage device. Additional systems can be added to a Joint Venture account for a prorated fee based on the number of new systems and months left in the current contract. The maximum number of systems Apple supports on a single account is 100, and you can add previously purchased systems within 14 days of signing up for Joint Venture.

In addition, you can schedule up to three two-hour sessions of training for your employees at an Apple Store (there’s no mention of on-site training). Sessions can cover topics like using the iPhone and iPad for business and how to create more engaging presentations with Keynote. Monthly workshops are available throughout the year to cover the basics of getting started with Apple’s devices, as well as to help IT departments support Apple products in business environments.

Joint Venture also offers a few premium support options not available to consumers. For example, members can speak to Apple Geniuses over the phone for general support or to check on part stock and the status of a repair. If they bring Apple products into a store, the staff can run diagnostics, system updates, and even clean your keyboard and display. Plus, Apple will offer a loaner MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, loaded with standard Mac OS X software and Microsoft Office, while your business’s machine is in the shop. Businesses also get a private Website to manage their Joint Venture accounts, including scheduling support requests, adding team members, and registering new systems.

This is an interesting, though not entirely unexpected, move for Apple. The company has made dramatic moves in the business realm lately, having discontinued the Xserve last November, as well as announcing that the server features of Mac OS X Lion have been incorporated into the client version. When Lion ships this summer, there will be just a single version available to purchase.

But the Mac, iPhone, and iPad are still steadily making their way into businesses, a trend largely contributed to their grassroots appeal. Apple COO Tim Cook, for example, is fond of citing the high percentages of prominent corporations that have adopted or piloted iOS devices. Given that appeal, it’s only logical that the company is making a serious effort to help small-to-medium businesses integrate its core products into their everyday operations.

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