NComputing states that “If your customer is a school and you save the school 75 percent, they spend that on something else“. They made the argument to counter the claim by OEMs and distributors that thin clients are too inexpensive for them to make any money selling them.
Both points of view are correct but missing the specific characteristics of the educational market. Schools look upon IT as an expense and they make no more cash flow by spending more on IT so they spend as little as they can. The things that cause schools to spend money on IT are demands by staff and students and the curriculum. A recent example: My school has two digital photocopiers. They are in a room off the LAN. The company servicing the copiers flew a plane in and had two guys service the machine and ADD a tiny print server so I could connect it to the LAN. Between classes, I made up the Ethernet cable. Thus, our copier service GAVE us something that might have cost thousands if purchased with the copiers instead of trying to sell us something pricey. The advantage to them? The number of copies running through that machine will spike up because people will not bother running an ink-jet or slow laser printer on their desks. We both win and the provider gets a load of good will in the process. Who am I going to call the next time a school needs more printing capacity? We get more speed and lower cost per page printing this way. I get to service fewer printers, too.
Yesterday, my school received a donation of 20 good, but older, PCs. These machines are perfectly adequate to our needs and we had no budget for them. From whence did they come? Computers for Schools and Libraries, an organization that recycles PCs donated from government and businesses in bulk and donates them to organizations like ours. All across Canada, government and businesses donate and students and volunteers refurbish machines instead of scrapping them. M$ even donates the OS that we over-write with Debian GNU/Linux. Sadly, CFSL has to account for all their licences making unnecessary work for the volunteers. M$ donates to keep the supply of refurbished PCs free of GNU/Linux and to prevent illegal copying that might occur if naked PCs were distributed. The volunteers provide services to gain experience for the younger, to keep busy for retired folks or just to be helpful. Businesses donate for a tax writeoff, to reduce maintenance costs, and to avoid land-fill or recycling charges. Government encourages this because it is better for the economy and the environment that PCs last longer. There is an issue with energy consumption but our PCs have a 185 watt power supply so that is hardly a question.
If you can donate thin clients to a school, it will cost you little but, having more PCs, the school may well need more mice, keyboards, desks, printing consummables, bandwidth, etc., things for which schools do pay.
While education may be a niche, it is a large niche and businesses do benefit by selling or giving to it.