Computer purchases highest ever at U

by Peter Frost

New computers are popping up everywhere on campus this year — from kiosks in Willey Hall to University administrators’ offices.
In an effort to keep up with the fast-changing environment of high-tech equipment, the University purchased more computers than ever this school year despite shrinking discounts from computer companies.
The University’s total purchases in the computer sector — including 8,350 computers, hardware, software and printers — amounted to $25 million in fiscal year 1999.
Computer purchases are up 8.7 percent from 7,628 in 1998 and 32.5 percent from 5,637 in 1997.
“This year was one of the biggest computer-purchasing years I’ve witnessed,” said Karen Triplett, director of purchasing.
Triplett said this was a big computer-purchasing year for many colleges and universities, noting that the University’s purchases are consistent with other Big Ten schools.
When the University makes these multiple-computer purchases, Apple, Dell and other computer companies offer educational discounts of about 3 to 5 percent.
“These discounts vary on the model and configuration of the computer, but the discounts still aren’t very significant,” said Bob Crabb, director of University Bookstores.
Crabb said recent discounts don’t compare to those offered at the beginning of the decade, when discounts up to 20 percent were offered on computers purchased for educational reasons.
With much more competition in the changing technology sector, companies are shrinking their margins and selling their computers closer to cost.
With such price competition, computer companies aren’t able to pass big discounts anymore without losing money.
To compensate for the reduced discounts, University officials are buying systems designed to suit specific needs.
For basic-programmed systems used primarily for e-mail and Web-browsing, University purchasers have bought Apple Computer’s iMac.
The brightly colored operating systems noticeably speckle the University’s labs and kiosks and have found a niche with Web-surfing and e-mailing students on the go.
When asked why the iMac is becoming so popular at the University, Shih-Pau Yen, director for Academic and Distributed Computing Services, said the system’s performance and price are among the best in the business.
But contrary to popular belief, “the University actually hasn’t bought many more Macs than last year. It’s just that the iMacs are so much more noticeable than your normal PC,” Yen said.
Most of the computers used in University Bookstores are Macintoshes.
“They’re awfully easy to use — and from the support standpoint — people here think the (Apples) are the best,” Crabb said.
Crabb also noted that he prefers some of the Apple programs over others such as desktop-publishing software.
Though Apple computers remain popular on campus, PCs like Dell and Gateway are becoming more popular in University labs because Microsoft Windows programs, which run on PC computers, are more widely used.
“Back in the 1980s, it was all Apple Macs, but now we’re breaking about even — maybe even leaning more toward PCs,” Crabb said.
The majority of the computers the University purchased are bought from Apple and Dell, but Gateway, NEC, Micron and a host of other brands are also purchased.
University officials base computer purchases on what kinds of software programs professors are using.
Recently, the University has been buying more computers with Microsoft’s Windows program.
Windows is the world’s most widely used operating system, and many students prefer it for its word processing, accounting and presentation material.
“Windows is very user-friendly and is especially useful for Carlson classes — where we have to use (Windows) programs to get class materials,” said Lucas Hagness, Carlson School of Management junior.

Peter Frost welcomes comments at [email protected].