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Canadian unveils notebook-as-a-service model

Company to deliver full notebook hardware, software, services and backup at a fixed monthly cost

Larry Keating, the president and CEO of Canadian-based No Panic Computing (NPC), is trying to revolutionize the way notebooks are purchased by small business professionals with his notebook-as-a-service model.

With partnerships with HP, Intel and Iron Mountain, along with Harry Zarek of Compugen as the company's investment partner, NPC aims to deliver professionals with a fully encrypted, worry-free notebook computing experience that includes hardware, software, services and backup, all for CAN$129.99 fixed monthly cost on a lease term of 36 months.

While NPC has been available previously across Canada and the US, the notebooks that were offered were not HP branded systems. NPC is a wholly-owned company of Keating Technologies, but is run independently. Keating said NPC recently struck an exclusive partnership with HP, where only HP's notebooks are now being offered with this service. The company is announcing its new NPC service next Tuesday during its launch which is set to take place in Toronto.

NPC is available with one of two HP Compaq business notebooks that run on Intel's Centrino Pro processor. Users can choose between a 15.4-inch model for a more desktop-like experience, or they can select the 14.1-inch screen size.

Both NPC models, HP 8510p and HP 6910p respectively, feature a 120GB hard drive with 2GB of memory. Keating said a 12-inch notebook along with a tablet will also be added to NPC's notebook offerings this fall.

"With NPC, the notebooks are completely encrypted and backed up with Iron Mountain," Keating said. "Customer data is stored in Iron Mountain's data centers so if a notebook is ever lost, damaged or stolen, we can replace the notebook with all of the customer's data on it from the last time it was backed up to the Web."

Once customers call into NPC's 24/7 customer support center, Keating said they will flag the notebook as being lost or stolen so the notebook's built-in technology will automatically destroy the data and wipe out the drive on the notebook. Customers will then be offered a replacement unit within 48 hours of the call, with all of their data and preferences restored on a new notebook, Keating adds.

For VARs, Keating said this type of notebook delivery service presents a vast amount of customer opportunities since partners aren't just selling hardware, but they're also ensuring that the customer's data is stored and secured for three years.

"This is a foolproof system because customers will never lose their data since it's always secure," Keating said. "This makes for a sticky customer and better margins for the partner."

Keating said NPC has been designed to make it easy for partners to deploy these notebooks since they don't have to carry or manage inventory.

"We make available to the VAR a complete solution with a fully managed notebook," Keating said. "We know how challenged VARs are with hardware margins now, but with NPC, VARs can earn a commission of $300 for each notebook unit they sell."

What's even better, Keating said, is once the 36-month lease is up, partners can also make the same margins when they renew their customers for another three years.

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VARs are also able to add their own custom applications and anything else the customer may need since the notebooks come only with Microsoft Office 2007 already installed. Being able to sell a customer a worry-free computing experience is a key driver that enables this notebook-as-a services model to work, Keating said.

NPC is really about the next generation of computing, Keating said, therefore the service is looking to attract a very specific type of customer in the professional small business industry. Professionals in the legal, financial, and the engineering sectors, are ones that Keating said NPC hopes to target.

"We're going after SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses) who have little to no IT support," Keating said. "Financial advisors, lawyers, accountants and so forth all have important data that needs to be protected and this service addresses all of that."

Tom Ward, the former ATI channel and marketing executive and now vice-president of marketing at NPC, said the company is currently looking to build its VAR base.

"We're not looking for 1,000 VARs," Ward said. "We want to VARs in professional verticals who are already talking to lawyers, small firms and who may be focused on installing specialized software."

Ward added that NPC provides VARs with an opportunity to get back to customers with 100 seats or less. Typically VARs have abandoned the smaller business because of razor-thin margins could sustain profitability. Most of those customers now turn to retail.

"This is a great opportunity for VARs to go back to those four or five person shops or go after companies with 30 employees are less because now the margins are there," Ward said.

Keating is confident that NPC will be a success, although he does admit it will take a lot of time and investment to get users to understand the value of moving towards a notebook services model.

After all, "we're just getting started," he adds. "We want to change the culture of how we deliver notebooks."