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back to article RM CEO: We didn't even try to sell PC biz before killing it

Education tech supplier RM didn't even test the appetite among rivals or privateer equity firms to buy its flattering PC biz before murdering it because the business was only just keeping its head above water. The long-standing system builder this week quit the business to concentrate on higher margin software and services. …

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Anonymous Coward

istuff

There's a good reason their PC market has dwindled - Apple. The vast majority of devices they fit are Apple products whether its ipad, imacs or apple TVs.

Why keep a shrinking market when schools and colleges are moving to different platforms.

AC because I work for them!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: istuff

For an Project Manager to have a tone like your last message, no wonder schools are in trouble.

The BSF builds I have been doing in and around london over the past 4 years, Apple kit accounts for 40% on kit installed.

I am in a school right now, who haven't got one single ICT room, they have gone for a mobile device per student, and the choice is apple.

Another school in Medway, they have just removed ALL PCs from the network, issues each kid with an iPad, and installed IMacs in all ICT room.

IMO the reason why more and more schools don't go down the same route is because they have a scared network admin team who think crap.. Macs... I don't know how to look after them, oh lets call them crap and tell the school they are no good and they will stick with PC's Phew job safe.

So with RM pulling out form the hardware market, do I think its a good choice, well maybe I can remember back in the days when a single PC sales or Laptop use to net around £500+ profit per device, not I would be surprised if RM make £50 per device.

Sad to see it go, as an RM machine was one I use to use in school but times change, and I think Apple is going to be the way forward for schools.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: istuff

Proprietary Apple products leave no access to the underlying systems or hardware and do not reflect the business marketplace whatsoever. If someone wants to learn photography do you give them a compact where every option is automatic or do you give them an SLR so that they can learn how to use the manual settings? So even if they wern't 3 times the price of the equivalent PC it would already be hugely irresponsible for a school to invest in them.

You are not an inspiration because you are 'brave' enough to learn how to use a mac, you are a fool for wasting our money and depriving our children of the skills they need to learn.

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Re: istuff

What nonsense. I agree that devices running iOS are closed, but have you ever actually used Mac OS X? Do you not realise that it's a UNIX-based operating system, and just by opening Terminal you have access to the real 'guts' of the machine, far more so than a Windows PC? Yes, a lot of Mac users are computer-illiterate, but most of the developers/admins/engineers that I know use Macs, for the very reason that it's a UNIX-like operating system.

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Bronze badge

Re: istuff

As someone who works in school ICT, and has done for nearly a decade, I can safely say that whilst there are some schools jumping on Apple gear, it is not the norm - most schools simply can't justify or afford it.

I don't know of a single school which has made that change that isn't having major issues, especially if they've gone down the 1 ipad per child route. One school that did it had something like a 40% first year failure rate!

Schools are supposed to teach transferable skills. Limiting children to a single device or OS is a bad thing, whatever the system may be.

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Paris Hilton

"it is impossible to see a world in two- to three-year time span where tablet won't play a major role in many schools ICT division."

Oh how the mighty have fallen! When I did Computer Science at school (none of this "ICT" bollocks back then), we learned programming (as well as a bit about word processors and spreadsheets). The fact that the industry is now talking about schools being able to use tablets for the majority of computing-related study is just a symptom of how the subject as a whole has been softened almost to the point of uselessness.

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Silver badge

"Oh how the mighty have fallen! When I did Computer Science at school (none of this "ICT" bollocks back then), we learned programming (as well as a bit about word processors and spreadsheets). The fact that the industry is now talking about schools being able to use tablets for the majority of computing-related study is just a symptom of how the subject as a whole has been softened almost to the point of uselessness."

I think, although I've not been in a school since I left it, that it's more that the number of non-computer science uses of computing have increased. You probably don't need more than a tablet to do the computing for geography. Which is just colouring in anyway*, and my tablet has a stylus.

* That's a joke, if anyone has a connection to geography. And not a joke if you don't.**

** See *.

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Devil

"The PC isn't dead"

See humourous title.

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"two UK system builders left – Stone Computers and Viglen"

Aren't Zoostorm (CMS computers) British? they are based in Warrington and according to their own website they are the UK's largest system builder to the channel.

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Meh

wise-up...to website claims

Have you clocked their annual sales?

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Happy

Re: wise-up...to website claims

Have you clocked their annual sales?

So not stretching the channel then?

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Tablets may play a minor role, but try learning programming or even word processing, spreadsheets or databases on one. ICT is supposed to be about teaching production skills and tablets are (by and large) consumer devices. Either way, I don't think the time of the school PC is over just yet!

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Silver badge

There's less reason to customize a PC as systems become more and more integrated (and Intel's on-board graphics become sufficiently capable for a greater range of tasks). This plays into the hands of Dell and suchlike who have economies of scale, and against companies like RM who build exactly what you want.

Not sure how you define a UK system builder. but rackservers.com is UK-based and also sells custom desktop PCs.

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Bronze badge

Tablets in schools? Not for long.

My wife's a teacher, and her school had mostly netbooks until the netbooks mostly went missing. I believe they were chained to a trolley, but some enterprising young thing just took the whole trolley for walk. Tablets are going to be even worse (sure, you can give a child an ipad, but how many do you get back at the end of term?). Last I heard they were back to desktops, as you can at least actually nail them to the desk.

Edit: Maybe one of those monitors with an ARM processor built in would be a better bet. Cheaper too.

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Re: Tablets in schools? Not for long.

People forget what a war zone a school is for technology, you really need military spec gear to survive in the hands of secondary school students. Amazingly though there are leasing companies out there prepared to lease schools the technology including insurance against any form of damage, intentional or otherwise. Whether they will live to regret that we'll have to wait and see!

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Silver badge

Re: Tablets in schools? Not for long.

I've long thought that the best approach for a school would be Gbit networking and thin clients, with a large multiuser server that actually does the work locked well away from the kids and non-IT staff.

Thin clients are cheap to replace. (All but free if you can use a Pi and recycle a keyboard / mouse / display from some other organ of your local government that's escaping Windows XP before next April). Thin clients also have the advantage that there's no financial and little other incentive for kids to steal them.

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Bronze badge

Re: Tablets in schools? Not for long.

We have some thin clients here (about 80 or so) but they are not capable enough to handle the demands we place upon them for all subjects. No video editing for one. They're better now than they were (now that Flash runs on them well enough, without needing expensive Citrix XenApp), but they still can't handle anything properly multimedia.

So, unless your school is huge and has the ability to focus ICT suites per department, thin clients often cannot do what the school needs. Just like tablets.

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Bronze badge

Re: Tablets in schools? Not for long.

My wife's school did that. Absolute PITA. Teachers work from home A LOT. You give them a thin client that refuses to do anything unless connected and working from home becomes nigh on impossible. The server is forever going down at the weekends (or school holidays), so no work can be done, no files can be accessed etc. Great idea in theory, and maybe something to give the kids, but staff should have proper laptops (with an appropriate user/admin setup to prevent cocking it up of course). Could automate a backup system, so files are synced to the server to prevent loss, but still work when there's no connection. Basically think through your damn users use of the system before you give it to them!

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Meh

It's academic, the harsh reality is that it is not now possible to have oodles of independent OEM's vying for business share against a growing band of very large and operationally very efficient production lines. Throw in the fact that tablets, (aside those form Apple) are shrinking price to win market share and the likes of RM have no chance. Quite frankly, even Stone and Viglen now face significant pressures.

RM have done the right thing, albeit about a year or two too late.

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Good News

RM have been ripping schools off for decades, I'm glad to see them out of this market. I know their methods, big on the sell, small on the delivery. Ingratiate themselves with the department for education, get involved in the bidding process at school level through 'sponsorship' so that schools fall over themselves and don't notice the high costs they are building into the bids for supply of RM branded equipment. They would sell your Grandmother, well more likely buy her and then lease her back to you at an extortionate rate! I know first hand many of their dirty tricks. Fitting fibre patch terminators for a larger number of fibre cores than they actually fit and charging you for the former. Re-branding Microsoft products - then having the cheek to try and charge you for additional licenses for said product which turns out to be bundled free by Microsoft! And some of their solutions having been released 3 times still didn't work, but they still charged you for them! Tech support would giggle, oh yes version 1 didn't, ha ha yeah version 2 didn't really work either... and all the time it was other peoples tech they were rebranding, usually out of the box Microsoft stuff that they managed to make not work. At one school it took 6 RM servers to run 2 ICT labs whereas the rest of the school (representing some 90% of the computers) ran off a couple of non RM servers (running a non RM network solution). Awful company that robbed schools blind charging ridiculous licensing fees for products half of which they didn't even own. Schools will be much better off without them!

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Re: Good News

What!!!! you mean RM are in business to make money?????

Heathen, next you'll say they are pulling out so they don't lose money (like they said).

*any* time you ask a company to supply something, they want a profit, and selling off government departments that existed to purely supply governments with goods for *no* profit will guarantee that the government end up paying more.

I do not feel any need to criticise RM, they are a company, one that only exists to make money (it's not a charity, and lots of them are suspect), if you want to poke someone with a shitty stick, poke the government that sold off the departments that existed for the benefit of the people.

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Re: Good News

I think the main point was that they charge an extortionate fee for something that doesn't work, and then charge you again for a new version that still doesn't work <insert MS/Apple/company of your displeasure joke here>.

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Re: Good News

Whereas I might agree with your sentiments, I believe that the idea that RM is now out of the education market is premature, as a cursory glance at their website would endorse.

In my estimation any company that specialises in supplying the public sector is just as likely to be about ripping off the taxpayer with very poor value deals, as he is a far softer target than hard-headed businessmen. A sensible school would seek out a supplier which operates competitively in the world of grownups.

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Re: Good News

Clearly you consider fraud, misrepresentation, copyright theft, mis-selling, unfair business practices, lies, unreliable products, bad service, poor advice and charging exorbitant pricing as the norm.

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Re: Good News

I agree, and when I was in charge that's what we did. Unfortunately as part of a bid the school had put in for prior to my arrival RM had already set up camp. By the time I left there was not a trace of RM left and as a result the schools IT budget was going a lot further.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good News

@James Gosling Posted Friday 1st November 2013 14:55 GMT

"Clearly you consider fraud, misrepresentation, copyright theft, mis-selling, unfair business practices, lies, unreliable products, bad service, poor advice and charging exorbitant pricing as the norm"

No I don't - but I do consider some of the things you said libel (unless you can prove it).

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PCs aren't trendy

Teachers want trendy free stuff like every other IT magpie-user in every other sector.

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RIM. Ridiculously overpriced crap. There is profit and there is extortion. They practised the latter on schools where the buyers frequently usually don't have sufficient expertise to know what they are doing.

Hence they now buy tablets which go completely against the grain of current goverment policy to stop teaching 'Word' (god I hate that expression - M$ driven marketing) and start teaching programming again.

Have argued this with my brother who is IT head at local comprehensive with about 2,000 students, but he's been sold the dream and has insufficient technical knowledge to know better.... he had nothing to do with IT til 6 years ago and 'fell' into the job by accident.

Thin clients and servers are the best way to go in many situations as pointed out above... the kids are evil with kit. Give them something they don't want to steal and is cheap to repair or replace.

Why buy expensive Apple kit ? Cos the Teachers want one, and it looks good with parents. It's about social climbing, not education.

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And another thing...

@John Crisp,

Well said!

It's a miracle most schools manage to provide computers for kids on their minute and overstretched budgets tbh. Even if they have someone with their head screwed on in charge of IT spending these poor souls are surrounded by people with cute ideas about technology in schools. Yes there are lots of pretty things out there to buy, one fad after another... well maybe fad is unfair, but most schools cannot afford the basics so spending on fancy bits of kit happens in spurts and this results in no consistency, a mix of makes and models and variations on a theme. A sizeable school needs the same kind of enterprise driven management that a medium sized business does, it needs to manage its budget, standardise on makes/models and invariably they only have a small team (in some cases less) to manage it all, so the key thing is that whatever is on the desks or in the hands of staff or students can be managed effectively. So, whilst I have nothing against Apple, they currently lack the necessary enterprise management tools necessary to effectively manage tablets on-mass in any enterprise. Much as I bemoan Microsoft, there may be some hope of finding tools to manage there tablets. But I'd also like to say that I concur with the sentiments of others expressed about this obsession with Microsoft Word et al in schools. I've even seen curriculum materials written based upon exclusive use of Microsoft products, this is totally wrong! Given the financial constraints of schools and the exorbitant licensing costs I would like to see a move to open source, backed by the government and a move away from focusing on any one maker of software. Students need to know how to work with technology, not to be indoctrination by one vendors products.

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Re: And another thing...

Good riddance - poorly spec'd machines sold to schools at premium prices, all but a few other vendors locked out. I guess RM stopped any serious innovation because they were going to get paid anyway. If they were such great value why didn't anyone in industry buy them?

While I understand the view that they are a business and as such it's ok for them to screw every last coin while they can - but I damn well don't agree.

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Whatever happened to a chalk board and decent OHP?

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@ Smoking Gun

To be honest a lot of money has been wasted by schools who don't have the basics on interactive whiteboards. Some of the pens for these things cost a fortune and get regularly broken and when you have a mixture of different models and makes of whiteboard staff get confused about how to operate them. Then there are some models that cannot be used as regular whiteboards and using the wrong kind of pen on them damages them, its a minefield. At the school I was at I had some success with the argument of saying look, until we can afford to get digital projectors into all the classrooms we want staff to be able to use their laptops to present in lets hold off on splashing out on whiteboards, one interactive whiteboard cost the equivalent of 3 new projectors, and frankly I think they are over rated - at least in the hands of staff who don't know how to make use of them! Projectors are much more easily understood and used.

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You, sir, sound like my wife. She's a science teacher and always bemoaning things like the interactive white boards, at the same time they give you cheap and breakable laptops with the cheapest and most useless laptop bags (straps frequently snap for extra excitement on the stairs!). Probably only one interactive board is needed per department, and even then only certain subjects. I'd say sci, eng, maths, IT, maybe a general use room or two, but that's it, 6 total for a reasonably sized school.

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Gold badge
Meh

So do RM have "mad skillz" when it comes to meeting the needs of schools?

Or just good at smoozing the LEA (as was, no idea what the chain of command is now) and getting a death grip on the "preferred suppliers" list?

If the former they might have a bright future both in the UK and even globally

If the former then they are likely to be "Economic roadkill" as Neil Stephenson put it in "Interface."

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Anonymous Coward

vulgar

there's something vulgar about companies providing services in to something as important as education obsessing about *margin*

it means they're fleecing their customers. i know it's all about profit, I get that. but it should be the outcome of superb service, not the main objective of their business.

education, healthcare, train services etc - they're all essential civic services, and should be done for as little profit as possible...

in 2010 RM changed focus to obsess about margin and profits. i can't see how this is good for educational establishments. a big shame as prior to that they had their heart in the right place. new exec chairman martyn 'margin' radcliffe changed all that.

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Re: vulgar

When I left (ok was made redundant) in 2005, everything was focussed on 'the bottom line' and how much any activity would add to it. Up until early 'noughties' I do believe RM made money as they did actually deliver a good service and really had the interest of schools at heart.

let's not forget that RM aren't the only company looking to make money out of schools - take a stroll around BETT in January and you'll see their are hundreds at it.

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