System builders may soon have to start offering customers shorter warranties or bearing extra support costs, if hard drive manufacturers get their way.
Maxtor recently became the first hard drive manufacturer to announce that it was planning to cut its standard three-year warranty on all desktop drives to a one-year warranty. The controversial move has been followed, in varying degrees, by rivals Seagate and Western Digital.
Richard Donaldson, sales director at reseller Pacific Computers, said: "If this comes into play then we'll have to pass the cost on to our end-users. We don't want to but we'll have little choice.
"It's a very aggressive market - there's very little money in hard drives - and I can see why they are doing it, but it's a disappointing and backward step."
Maxtor tried to bury this massive change in a news release for its new DiamondMax desktop drives with a one-line statement: "Effective from 1 October 2002, all Maxtor desktop drives will carry a one-year standard warranty."
Since then, channel partners have been receiving letters that outline the proposed changes. Western Digital has said the one-year warranty will apply to its Caviar drives, but the warranty on its Caviar SE range will still cover three years.
In a recent letter to some partners, Seagate stated: "Seagate would like to inform you that from 1 October 2002, all Seagate desktop and personal storage products will ship with a one-year limited warranty. This warranty change will affect all generations of products that are shipping today; if a product ships on or after 1 October, it will be covered by the one-year warranty policy."
In its defence, Seagate claimed in the statement: "The new warranty policy will allow Seagate to remain a leading supplier in the highly competitive desktop disc storage market."
Regardless of these tight market conditions, it remains to be seen if the new move can be enforced in Europe, since EU law stipulates that all products must have a two-year warranty.
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