Student buyers: Notebook PC makers’ last hope

By Richard Pearson, The China Post

Notebook computer manufacturers are hoping that purchases by students will help them through a tight economic period that has seen overall sales drop off, and are tailoring pricing and incentives arrangements to attract more student buyers. According to a recent article in a Chinese-language newspaper, IBM and Apple have responded to the sluggishness in the computer sector overall by increasing their focus on the student segment. The article said that Chinese parents’ traditional willingness to cater to their children is a major factor keeping computer purchases by students fairly brisk. Besides, there is a growing trend for students to delay leaving college, and an increasing number of people returning to school from the current sluggish job market has also helped the computer market for students to keep growing.

Computer makers have increasingly targeted advertising to students and are also tailoring other policies to suit that market. IBM Taiwan recently began extending the warranty it offers to Taiwan buyers to cover repairs made anywhere in the world. IBM hopes that this policy will make its computers more attractive to some of the roughly 30,000 Taiwan students who leave the island to pursue studies abroad every year.

IBM officials on Thursday said that although the international computer industry is currently stagnating, the student market has been growing.

Apple plans to unveil its Mac OS X operating system with Chinese-language capability on Monday and company officials indicated it should be popular with student buyers. Apple officials said that its iBook line of notebook computers has been well received by students already. Not all computer companies, however, are so aggressively courting the academic market. Representatives of Compaq Taiwan said that although the company does not have a specific marketing slogan aimed at students, its Presario line of notebook computers have attracted student interest.

According to representatives for Asustek Computer Inc., student interest has added new strength to the computer industry. They also said that student buyers pay more attention to price than other buyers putting added pressure on sellers to maintain competitive prices.