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Apple Vs. Dell For 130,000 Michigan School Laptops

Apple Vs. Dell For 130,000 Michigan School Laptops

by , 1:00 PM EDT, October 6th, 2003

It's Apple vs. Dell. In the beginning, Dell CEO Michael Dell dismissed Apple as having more value to its stockholders by simply selling its assets and giving the money to its shareholders. Lo! And there came the days of response, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs showed a large picture of Michael Dell with a target superimposed over his face. That was years ago, during the heady days of the 1990's tech boom, and what has followed has been a bit of back and forth between the companies, such as Dell copresident Kevin Rollins offering his version of Apple's education sales, Mr. Dell's attempt to take credit for Apple's innovations, or his subtle suggestion that Steve Jobs stick to making movies.

TMO's Reality Check
cartoon From May, 2001
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It's safe to say that there is little love lost between the companies, but the battle between them is becoming personified through the pursuit of one particular education deal. The two companies are reportedly the frontrunners for a deal involving 130,000 laptops for all of the state of Michigan's 6th grade students. Such a deal would dwarf the deal for 23,000 iBooks in Henrico County, Virginia, or even the deal to supply iBooks to 7th and 8th graders in the state of Maine, as Michigan has a much higher population than its colder (and more rural) cousin. Accordingly, Round Rock, TX-based Dell would like to see this school purchase go the WinDell route, reports the Detroit Free Press's Mike Wendland. From the article:

Michigan is getting ready to place a technology order that just may be the biggest single purchase of computers ever -- 130,000 laptops, enough to give one to every sixth-grade student in the state.

And that's just for the first year.

For computer makers, it's a huge plum worth fully going after. Figure $39 million a year in business, for the next four years, for a total of $156 million. That's one reason Michael Dell, founder of the computer company bearing his last name, just happened to pay a visit to the state last week.

Dell hosted a low-key gourmet dinner at the very upscale Tribute restaurant in Farmington Hills for 60 or so school superintendents and educational information technology leaders.

That's also why Apple Computer hosted a dinner of its own a couple of weeks ago for key members of its Michigan user groups, urging them to spread the word and use their influence among their educational contacts.

Mr. Wendland also reports that the decision will be made in November, for implementation starting in January. There's a lot more in the full article at the Free Press Web site, and we recommend the article as a good read.

Dell replaced Apple as the #1 education vendor as far back as 1999, though Apple still maintains the largest vendor-based installed user base. At the same time, Apple recently saw its first uptick in new education market share in years, based in part on the success of its one-on-one programs just like this new Michigan deal. We should note, too, that Microsoft has been the biggest winner in the education space, with some 60-65% of school computers running Windows.

If you are interested in Apple and the Mac platform in the education system, check out our An Apple A Day: Macs In Education forum . It is a resource dedicated to teachers, administrators, sys admins and others involved in education.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Well, well, well. This is interesting. This is a serious personification of the Dell vs. Apple rivalry. Of course, it could be argued that the same rivalry has been personified in the same way in the other 100 or so one-on-one education deals Apple has landed that CFO Fred Anderson mentioned last month. Dell was most likely bidding on those deals, too.

The thing is, however, that the stakes are higher than before, perhaps higher than ever. It's not just 130,000 laptops up for grabs, it's bragging rights and a monstrous load of publicity for the winner. That publicity could well influence dozens or scores of other large education purchases. With that in mind, Dell is clearly in a better position to low-ball this project, perhaps even being willing to sell the units at a loss, just to keep Apple from getting it. It would be difficult (i.e. impossible) for Apple to do the same thing.

Fred Anderson said at the above-mentioned September speech that Apple had the advantage going forward in the education market because it has been pursuing one-on-one initiatives longer than anyone else. The company has a track record with Apple's support, IT costs associated with these deals, and student and teacher satisfaction. That certainly is an advantage, and we hope that momentum helps land this gig. We'd hate to see 130,000 kids stuck with WinDell.

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