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Thursday, March 25, 2004, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Apple stores prepare for portable program

Inventory parts for Apple's portable products will begin to arrive in the company's retail stores tomorrow, sources tell AppleInsider. As major component of forthcoming Apple ProCare service, all retail locations will adopt a new set of guidelines for handing laptop repairs.

Apple laptops will now fall under a dual strategy, sources said. Dependent on the situation, laptops being brought into Apple stores and needing repair can either be sent to the company's repair depot or be treated in-house.

Because Apple's repair depot is structured with a flat labor fee and flat parts fee for out-of-warranty repairs, customers will be given the option to select if their repair should be addressed at the store, or sent to the depot.

Out-of-warranty repairs completed in-store will be subject to variable parts and labor rates, but will usually be met with faster turn-around-times, sources said. On the flip-side, depot repairs may take slightly longer for a lesser fee. Meanwhile, severely damaged units, displays, and portables with parts that are under an Apple service program (such as the iBook Repair Extension Program), should always be sent to the repair depot, sources said.

The most common Apple portable replacement parts have been identified and compiled into a rolling list, which the company will be updating over time. Parts on the list are in adequate supply and will be shipped to stores by the end of the month.

Additionally, the new program will mandate that all Apple Store 'Geniuses' become 'portable certified' by the launch of the program on April 1st. Details of the certification course will reportedly be made available to employees via Apple's online training Website.

While some may see ProCare as a way for Apple to extract another yearly fee from its customers, insiders say that each $99 membership fee will go straight to the company's bottom line. " If we sell ProCare at the rate we anticipate, the plan is to use the money we make to invest more in payroll as a whole and more specifically, in payroll for the Genius Bar," Apple reportedly told employees in a company memo.