Channel players who are willing to overcome the challenges of the complex education space stand to reap the benefits, but vendors have warned the market is far from being a cash cow.
With the Federal Government committing more than $11.6 billion in 2000-2001 to building its IT education and training base in Australia, opportunity knocks, according to IDC analyst Bernie Esner.
"Opportunities for PC vendors, it seems, abound, with PC shipments to the education segment growing from 125,000 units in 1999 to 166,000 in 2002," he said in a recent report.
The three main vendors in the education segment last year were Apple, Toshiba and Acer.
However, Toshiba's Education marketing manager, Aaron Blackman, said while the education market was often highly sought after by the company's resellers, the market is extremely complex.
"It is a very demanding, complex market to work in and it is virtually a not-for-profit part of our business," he explained. "It is so different from the corporate world."Esner said the government tendering process made it very hard for vendors to add value to their sales because tenders in Public Education often separate the components due to funding restrictions.
"But that's no reason not to keep hammering home the message," he said. "Given that the Government is aware of the need for internetworking, peripherals, support and enhanced applications in classrooms, it is inevitable that it will eventually filter through to the tender process."Toshiba is best known in the space for its School Notebook Access Plan (SNAP), and plans to launch its SNAP 2001 program in early August. The vendor handpicks a group of Education Specialist Resellers for the market, reviewing candidates each year based on performance.
Blackman said while the price sensitivity of the market meant sales were more about market share and building brand awareness, there were still good opportunities for the channel.
"As a reseller selling a total solution to schools in terms of systems integration, the service is ongoing. The profit margins are less than the corporate market but the size of the market makes up for that.
"There are a few companies who won't touch education, but for those that do, schools need solutions, and they need their services set up."The intensive work involved in servicing the educational space is worth the time and resources, according to Raymond Verdenager, marketing manager for Acer, which recently won a departmental tender to supply 380, 000 notebooks to teachers within the Department of Employment Education and Training in Victoria.
"The education market has been important to us for the last five years," Verdenager said. "It is lots of work but it's rewarding for us and for our resellers."He described the tender process as "very intensive" because vendors are required to offer a total solution with a high level of expertise.
"It is a demanding market but if you have the right formula and are focused, it becomes easy," said Yaron Kozminski, marketing director for IT solutions company and Acer reseller Histar Invoteck Group. "It is a very profitable market for us. Our philosophy is the customer is sitting on top of our food chain and we employ the right people and go to the right lengths to understand what the customer needs to ensure our success. Our core business is providing good systems integration, and everything else follows on from that because that is the sort of service the education market needs.
"It is a bit of a turnkey solution; the focus is on services, but there is also the box component," he added.