Netbooks, netbooks and more netbooks

In case you haven’t heard (and I doubt you have) we here at Le Grand have embarked on a grand netbook experiment.  Its a funny thing really because up until a year ago we didn’t have any plans to deploy netbooks on campus.  But then something happened.  Something wonderful.  Acer sent us seed units for free.  No POs to sign, no paperwork of any kind.  Just a quick phone call, would you like to try a netbook, yes?  We’ll ship it right out.  No muss, no fuss.  And then, they did it again.  And as if by magic our little district had 4 netbooks to try, for what seemed like forever.  And even better, if we wanted to keep them, we paid 1/2 price and if not, we just shipped them back.  It was so easy, so simple, so impossibly friendly it put a big warm fuzzy feeling in my heart every time I saw one of those little Acers tucked under someone’s arm as they walked around campus.  That warm fuzzy feeling was so great that when it came time to order netbooks for our pilot project, we unanimously decided on Acer.  Afterall we had been using them for several months, hassle free and we didn’t exactly have time to go out and test a whole bunch of different netbooks.  You know how planning goes in School Districts.  We’ve got money, the end of the year is here.  Buy them, NOW!

Cut to present day and we are considering expanding our pilot into more classes.  This time we do have the time to look at alternatives, after all we know what the Acers can do.  We’ve lived with them for almost a year now.  What we don’t know is what else is out there and given how rapidly Acer changes models it would be nice to settle on something a bit more stable.  But so far there has been no warm fuzzy feeling from any of the other vendors.  In fact it has been the opposite.  Everyone wants a PO and a trial period.  Dell wants their netbook back in 21 days, CDWG is better and will send me anything for a 30 day hands-on.  Lenovo wants me to call them back.  I already sent an email saying I wanted to tryout something similar to an Acer D250, thank you, do we really need to talk?  Can’t you just send something out?

I want it to be easy.  Easy like Acer.  I don’t have time for POs and keeping track of deadlines on trial periods.  These things are cheap.  Why not just seed them out?  Is one unit really going to hurt you?  Spread some good will and cheer this Holiday season and let us spend a few months getting to know your netbook.  Acer did and those 4 units that we had in hand for months and eventually paid for turned into 60 units purchased at full price and left us with a tendency to buy Acer first.  In fact if Acer could just keep a model number for longer than 3 months, I’d probably not even be looking at alternatives right now.  But I am curious.  I would like to see what else is out there, I mean we are talking potentially hundreds of units moving forward and some hardware consistency would be nice.

I am not asking for a free handout.  But I am asking for free from hassle, easy, simple, a call or an email and it arrives one day ready to be used and abused.  Willing to stay for a long term commitment.  I’m not going to make a decision based on a few weeks of hand holding.  Given today’s budget, do I spend the few dollars we have looking at alternatives or do I save that money and buy more Acers and just deal with the model changes?  Acer hooked us with their seed program and it seems like no one else is really interested in our business.   So what is a small school district to do?

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