White-box assemblers pushed out of education deals

White-box assemblers pushed out of education deals

Victoria is not the only state in which the government is squeezing local IT suppliers out of the PC market. White-box assemblers around the country have expressed concern about how easily swayed most state education departments are by the promises of multinational vendors.

Resellers expressed anguish over a recent deal in Victoria, where Acer won a tender to supply 23,000 personal computers to the Department of Education, Employment and Training (DEET), in what many describe as controversial circumstances (ARN, February 27 and March 6 editions).

Robert Hume, director of Bit Play Computer Systems in Mooroolbark, Victoria, said the Victorian Government's large deals with the likes of IBM and Acer are putting local suppliers that serve the education market out of business. He estimates that he is selling 10 per cent of the volume he used to sell into the education market two years ago.

"It has been pretty disastrous," he said. "And I am only one small part of the equation. There are flow-on effects to my suppliers [local distributors such as Westan and Achieva], who don't get as much business from me as a result."

Assemblers in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland claim they face the same struggle to gain government business.

While recent deals reported in ARN brought about allegations of a conflict of interest, resellers said the other losers in such tenders are the customers themselves.

David Wain, director of Coretech, the largest supplier of ICT to education in Queensland, is disappointed with the growing trend to move toward large, price-based contracts with multinational vendors.

"These deals are politically attractive but they don't save money," he said. "In fact, what they do is degrade the ability of schools to properly integrate technology into the curriculum by removing any value that the local suppliers were adding to the equation."

Wain rebutted Acer marketing manager Raymond Vardanega's comments in ARN (March 6), which stated "the customer's decision [was] to purchase Acer".

"The real ‘customers' are the schools and the communities associated with them, and if it was up to them, the decision would be very different," Wain said.

ARN continues its investigation into government tenders in this week's issue, out now.

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