Virtual Communities launches new bundle

PC reseller Virtual Communities will tap into the first-time PC buyer market with a laptop and Internet access bundle.

Launched last week, the deal includes an entry-level IBM ThinkPad laptop with tier-one Internet access from Primus, low-cost finance at 9.5 per cent fixed interest for three years, the choice of Lotus Notes or Microsoft Office software, delivery and installation from $19.99 per week. Non-members can expect to pay $20.99 for the Lotus Notes deal.

Formed in November 1999, Virtual Communities is a reseller for non-profit organisations including the ACTU, the Catholic and Anglican churches and the Industry Superannuation Fund. The consumer reseller offers discounted prices to the member groups, according to Ed Smith, Virtual Communities' director of operations.

While Smith regarded the local laptop market as generally "expensive", he said the bundle would have strong uptake among all entry-level PC users like students, seniors and workers with scant access to mobile computers through their employers. The deal offered a comprehensive, affordable and hassle-free computing solution, he added.

Smith declined to provide a profit forecast on the deal for the next year, but said the low-end consumer and corporate PC business was strong in Australia. Virtual Communities has sold 35,000 PC units thus far under the IBM laptop deal.

The bundle was not aimed at down-playing its desktop PC bundle, launched in February this year, Smith added. The PC industry had a social responsibility to foster more equal consumer access to computers, he asserted. "Australia has to address a fundamental issue," he mused. "Are we going to let 50 per cent of people not experience the social or economic benefits of the Web . . . and end up a divided country with people with no opportunities to be knowledge workers?"