Every new academic year is marked by the placing of orders for laptops and PCs for incoming students. Armed with budgets and requirements campuses around the country look for deals as vendors try to pitch for more and more business. How prepared is your institution for what has nearly become an annual ritual? Is your research sufficient; and your vendor selection process adequate? Is the configuration you’ve chosen suitable for your needs and budget; or could you have got more? We survey the landscape and seek answers to some of these questions.
Survey the Market
“Having laptops has made the classroom environment more engaging and – with immediate access to the Internet – more real-time,” says Professor Prasoon Majumdar, dean – academics, Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM). “Today, technology is the bedrock for facilitating any management initiative; so, strong integration of technology into our courses was felt to be compulsory. Laptops and Wi-Fi networking became integral to that,” he adds. Like IIPM, most higher education institutes have today made a definitive shift towards bulk purchases.
The market today offers a wide range of laptops and desktops, to meet all requirements and budgets. At the lowest end are Netbooks (Internet + notebooks) and Nettops (Internet + desktops), which are small-sized, cost-effective computers, primarily used for accessing the Internet. Their computing power, memory, and storage capacity are designed for this specific usage. While you can do basic tasks like word processing on these devices, running more than one application – for instance, a word processor and the Internet browser— at the same time, could result in slow performance.
Laptops are generally of two kinds— consumer and business. Consumer laptops are designed for use at home. They are heavier, are available in snazzy designs and have processing power and other specifications customised for applications such as gaming. Business laptops, on the other hand, are relatively lightweight and rugged in design. They are designed for heavy use and may have additional security features to protect data and the hard drive.
Anand Karapurkar, director and founder of Infobahn Technologies, whose focus is the education segment, has this to say on choosing between laptops and Netbooks. “Students use laptops for six to seven hours a day and travel with it in crowded buses and trains. So, the laptop has to be rugged and lightweight hence business laptops designed for rugged use are ideal for them.
Consumer laptops, could end up with cracked screens if used roughly. Netbooks are not recommended for students, since they are pure Internet browsing devices and are more suited for sales-force automation.”
Also available in the market are tablet PCs, with slate-like or book-like displays that enable users to write on the screen with a stylus to input text. While these are very lightweight, and well suited for users on the go they can also be prohibitively expensive for most institutions.
When it comes to desktops, there isn’t much difference between consumer and business models, as far as basic configuration is concerned. Desktops with specialized configurations and applications are available for specific applications, such as CAD/CAM or graphics-intensive work. In desktops, you also have the choice of opting for branded desktops or assembled models; and also, whether you’d want to use licensed, proprietary software like Microsoft Windows (which can be expensive), or open source (more cost-effective and highly customisable) software such as Linux.