Debate rages over Acer education deal

Debate rages over Acer education deal

Acer's 23,000-PC deal with the Department of Education, Employment and Training has created a furore among local white-box manufacturers, with the industry lambasting the Victorian Government for awarding direct deals to overseas vendors at the expense of local industry.

Meanwhile, Acer Computer Australia has countered criticism by the Australian white-box community by stating that its contract wins prove it delivers superior service.

Acer's marketing manager, Raymond Vardanega responded to ARN's evidence of a conflict of interest around the huge PC deal with a stinging rebuke including a swipe at the local industry.

"Acer is proud of the level of product quality, product consistency, responsiveness and service provided to its customers, as DEET's Tony Ralston said (ARN, Feb 27, p1)," Vardenaga wrote in a letter to ARN*. "Acer customers tend to stay Acer customers, because of trust in these critical areas of IT products provision."

Later in the letter he asked: "Should the government, or any customer, engage suppliers that don't or won't consistently meet their needs simply because it is perceived that they contribute more to the Australian economy?

"Should the Leyland P76 still be sold and subsidised in Australia because it was designed and manufactured here?"

Office Everything, an IT solutions company based in country Victoria, claims it has had to reduce its workforce by 20 per cent as a result of the Government's recent decision. Peter Janssen, its owner and managing director, is livid with what he says are double standards, fuzzy logic and a lack of respect for homegrown solutions.

"In its wisdom, Victoria's Labor Government has decided once again that employment in country Victoria, especially in the information technology sector, is not important," Janssen stated in a letter to ARN* this week.

"While politicians are happy to mouth platitudes outlining the need to provide the right environment for the IT industry to prosper, the reality is that they have virtually banned country suppliers from having any involvement in the supply of this type of equipment to schools."

Others, like Victor Aghtan, managing director of components distributor Westan, are calling for the local "clone" industry to form an association.

Aghtan says that only with a "collective voice" will the white-box industry be able to lobby and educate Australian governments.

"The clone market is very important for the IT industry in Australia," Aghtan said. "Yet amazingly this industry has no voice. There is no lobby group and no organisation that is charged with lobbying the government and the public -- to place some focus on what the white-box industry is and what it can do for the country. But I am convinced that this will happen very soon.

"This kind of industry acts as an incubator for future generations coming out of universities. It provides an opportunity for innovation. If someone emerges from Australia to become famous and globally influential in the IT industry, they will have come from the clone market.

"Governments need to be educated on that."

* Full transcripts of the conflicting viewpoints from Office Everything's Janssen and Acer's Vardanega are published in this week's issue of ARN, out now.

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