My son, off at college, noted that getting useful tech support for his iPod has been a dream compared to the tech support run around he got with his laptop. He asked if higher quality tech support could be a factor in their pricing structures and product markets.
Bright kid, that boy of mine.
This can be viewed as an application of pricing complementary goods. With complements, a price decrease (or quality increase) in B increases the demand for A. If you offer both A and B, it is possible that the lost profits from under-pricing B (or over-investing in quality) is more than made up for with the increase in demand for A. For example, Microsoft gave away their IE browser so as to sell more operating systems (preloaded onto 90% of computers) but Netscape could not.
Many firms give away ancillary services so as to increase demand for the underlying product. This can get tricky with tech support because there is a time lag between the consumption decisions for A and B (i.e., tech support after the initial purchase). Purchasers of A (iPods) have to foresee 1) that they may need B (tech support) later on and 2) that A's producer has better than average price/quality for B (tech support). In this case, developing such a reputation is extremely valuable.
Increasing demand this way is more profitable when the underlying product has a larger price-cost margin. As a consequence, we expect excellent reputations for ancillary services to be more common for products that benefit more from the shift in demand. That is, when it faces less competition. For most laptops, brands are pretty interchangeable. However, various versions of the Apple iPod still command more than half the portable digital player market with significant price premiums. Apple's choice of reputation is no accident.
Per recent FTC rules, I will disclose that I have not received the new iPhone from my brother who works at Apple. Well not yet, hint, hint.