A new PC/Internet bundle consortium to hit the streets signals tougher times ahead for resellers competing for the first-time PC buyer dollar.
Get On Board, a three-way venture launched last week by the NSW Labor Council (an affiliate organisation of the ACTU), the NSW ALP and finance house Kingsway Capital offers party members a Gateway Neo PC and free Internet access from Free Online for $9.95 a week.
Get On Board is looking conservatively signing up between 30,000 and 40,000 ALP members.
The deal undercuts a similar offering by Virtual Communities, the ACTU-backed organisation touting an IBM Aptiva for $10.95 with Internet access from Primus (see ARN, May 31, page 1).
Under the leasing arrangements the total cost for Get On Board's offer is $1890. To purchase the deal outright it costs $1680 (inc GST), while Virtual Communities' offer totals $1740.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa admitted at the launch last week that competition will be tough against Virtual Communities and other PC resellers and mass merchants.
"But it still stands on its own as a package," he said. "Our objective is to get all Australian members on the Internet." But behind the deal are some non-altruistic motives.
After coping with the 1998 Federal Election, recent State and Local Government campaigns and the Republic Referendum, the ALP appears strapped for cash.
And curiously, leasing or selling low-margin PCs to its member base appears to be a ticket out. Mark Arbib, the ALP's assistant general secretary, said: "This project is going to help the party become self-sufficient."Customers will have access to 4000 "free zones", or Internet sites, deemed appropriate or useful for a family-type audience for one hour a day in peak times and two hours in non-peak times. Beyond this limitation, customers pay $2.50 an hour for Internet access.
The deal also includes a three-and-a-half year Gateway warranty and a leasing plan charging 9.5 per cent per annum. The Gateway Neo itself runs on a 500MHz Intel processor and comes with Windows 98 and popular components of Microsoft Office.
It also comes with three months of free phone support via an outsourced call centre. The deal is currently restricted to union and ALP members, but the company may extend the deal to the general public in the future.www.getonboard.com.au