This reply is from Jacques Wessells, Facilities Planner, ICT Services.
Both the Acer and Lenovo prices and products to students are the result of the ASAUDIT working group for student laptops and supported by the PURCO group. In short ASAUDIT is a standalone organisation made up of all participating universities of which the NMMU is one. ASAUDIT late in 2011 published a RFC on open tender to all laptop suppliers in South Africa. Certain guideline specs were given as part of the tender and it was administered by PURCO. The result is that there were two brands that were selected for the national Student Laptop Initiative or SLI. The NMMU had no direct input into the specifications of the hardware but we clearly support the initiative.
The point must be made that no student is expected to buy a laptop through the SLI, the NMMU are supporting the SLI as an additional mechanism where students can get access to laptops. This is important for various reasons relating to the mobile technology needs of students becoming ever more important. The SLI is the first of many steps and processes that the NMMU is working on and in collaboration with to ensure student access to technology is made as simple and affordable as possible.
It may very well be true that you could find equivalent hardware elsewhere at lower prices and that is feedback we will be taking to the oversight committee of the working group. One must be careful to compare apples with apples though. The price includes local support should something go wrong with the hardware. If enough students buy we will also see on-campus warranty support for these laptops which is a value add you cannot find elsewhere.
As to the cost of MS Office and MS Windows. Microsoft has come to the table with incredible discounts. The NMMU hopes to extend these discounts to all students in due course. The cost of either package amounts to roughly R250 each and so it makes absolute financial sense to bundle this with the laptop. The NMMU wants our students to be empowered not only as students in classrooms but as knowledge workers with a professional set of tools at their disposal. To this end the Professional series of software at the extremely discounted prices represent unbeatable value for money.
So to sum up there is perhaps some need to relook at the hardware prices and finding mechanisms to deal with lowering them further but that the software bundle cannot be argued, is good value for money. We thank the response on this forum by students and will take these comments to the working group.