The DET deal involves service delivery to 1.3 million students and the previous service provider did it for some $33 million over five years. Cooper said SMS can do it for $9.5 million, using Google solutions, although exact contract details – for example, in terms of who is liable for what – are still being nutted out.
Departments across Australia are ready to consider innovative solutions even from new players in the education space, especially if there are quantifiable benefits such as cost savings. SMS is also pursuing similar opportunities in other states, he added.
“In general, opportunities like with DET can include things based around software-as-a-service (SaaS),” Cooper said. “The Department was open to offerings based on alternatives to the more traditional Microsoft Exchange-type solution. The gmail solution is secure and scaleable.”
He said “appropriate broadband” will be key for departments as well as for individual institutions, but said that a number of trends are appearing in the education sector driving multi-stranded ICT sales. It’s not just about collaboration using stuff like social networking and Web 2.0 but includes the whole gamut of solutions and needs – just as in the business sector.
There’s so much innovation and valuable intellectual capital in the Australian IT community, particularly in ISVs and solutions, that many valuable partnerships are possible and SMS plans to seek them out, Cooper said.
“And it’s as easy to sell into the US or UK as it is to batter your head against the departments in Australia,” he said.
Green IT is important as well – as might be expected when education deployments are so large.
So is this the beginning of something for SMS? “We think so,” Cooper said.
NSW-based Also Technology general manager, Ming Ho, said her view from tier-two distribution is that the education market has been somewhat up and down in recent years. Now, though, things are definitely looking up, with the advent of Rudd’s additional funding.
It can be tricky, she said, to convince schools – or parents – to spend money. But Ho is seeing demand for diverse hardware – for low-cost machines at primary school or entry-level, right up to more advanced machines at university level.
The sweet spot for sales, she claims, is around $1000 for laptops. “But not always. [For instance] some universities have money,” Ho said. “They often want to buy more sophisticated hardware, such as 15-inch to 22-inch touchscreen PCs ... for CAD, graphics, arts and design.”