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Apple ProCare service revamp to offer less bang for buck

Mac users mulling an Apple ProCare license may want to buy into the extended training and repair service within the next 48 hours, as changes due later in the week will effectively double the cost of today's offerings.

According to people familiar with the matter, Apple on Wednesday will split the existing $99 per-year retail service into two separate packages — one for repair-related services and the other specifically for one-on-one Mac training.

The first $99 package will retain the "ProCare" brand and continue to offer Genius Bar reservations up to 14 days in advance, "Fast Track" priority same-day repairs, and general Genius Bar expedited service for up to 3 computers.

ProCare, however, will no longer include Apple's in-store personal training sessions, which will instead be broken out into a separate offering called "One-to-One." Interested Mac owners will be asked to fork over an additional $99 for the Creative-based training service, which will offer up to 52 one-hour sessions throughout the course of the year.

School teachers — not students — buying into the new One-to-one service will receive a $20 discount, bringing the cost of the package down to $79, those familiar with the changes say. On the other hand, there appear to be no cost saving opportunities available to customers who purchase both ProCare and One-to-one.

As part of this week's service shift, Apple is also expected to re-brand its complimentary Talk Mac computer consultation service under the "Personal Shopping" moniker and equip its retail employees with new Spring tee-shirts.

The moves by the Cupertino-based company are the latest aimed at boosting the revenue of its software and service segment, which has seen only a modest 6 percent rise over the past year. For the three-month period ending March, the segment generated about $345 million in revenues, down a percent from the December holiday quarter.

The high-margin repair and training services are often a subject of frustration for Apple retail employees, who are reprimanded by management for failing to push the offerings on new computer buyers. Apple Retail stores typically set specific ProCare and Apple Care goals (or "attach rates") which employees are expected to meet in a given period of time.

It's unclear how the service split will affect Apple's attach rate expectations.