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An IT company is trying to sell me netbooks, but because they're "business" rather than "home" they're twice the price for less than the same specs. Adding insult to injury, we're quoted separately on power adapters, which add about 10% to the unit cost.

Do they really not come with power adapters? Am I the only one who thinks that's ridiculous? Is that a standard thing from Asus, HP, etc.?

The only other difference I can see is that they come with XP Pro instead of XP Home...but even that's not the case for all the units.

Is there different hardware? Is there even really a different class of netbook for businesses, or is it all made up? (Re: made up: For instance, we have Bell "Business" DSL at work, and they shipped us a DSL modem labelled "SpeedTouch HOME". Since they're service doesn't have any more uptime than I get at home, I assume they're just charging double because we're a business and they're therefore allowed to force us to buy "business" service even if it's exactly the same as their home service.)

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Have you tried asking the vendor about the price differences? – womble Nov 9 '09 at 19:07
Which IT company, how about a link to a product page. – Zoredache Nov 9 '09 at 19:07
I'd rather not say which company. We were looking at Asus 1005HAs, among others, and the rep isn't necessarily a tech expert, more like a coordinator. – Kev Nov 9 '09 at 19:11
The rep might not be an expert, but if you present them with a brochure for a consumer netbook and say "what am I getting for the extra price?", they should either be able to answer or get an answer for you; if not, there's presumably not enough difference and you just go buy the consumer ones. – womble Nov 9 '09 at 19:28
Some people call it "Marketing", others call it a "Scam" – Mark Henderson Nov 9 '09 at 20:48
up vote 1 down vote accepted

My observations ...

1- DLux and Dave M summarize nicely the home vs. business issues for hardware. Be very clear about installed OS (and license), other included apps, the warranty period and what is covered, how long phone support is included, etc.

2- I would be skeptical about the "IT company" with whom you are working. Their inability to answer this question effectively raises a red flag for me.

3- I have no problem paying more to work with a provider or integrator who adds value. Just be clear what value is actually added. OTOH, many of these companies who add nothing but cost and headaches.

4- If you buy Windows systems from an integrator, make sure that you get documentation that any installed software (and OS) is properly licensed.

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What kind of warranty do they come with? Is it a 30 day thing, or a 3 year, on site, no fault warranty? That would make sense because Netbooks are fragile, and business users are anything but careful with equipment that doesn't belong to them. The OS difference will add cost, but not much.

As for the DSL thing, usually a 'business' connection carries a totally different SLA than a home connection would.

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Service level availability? Doesn't seem to...we have random Internet outages 5-10 minutes at a time about once a month. Actually my home connection is more reliable, now that I think of it. – Kev Nov 9 '09 at 19:03
I'll ask about the warranty. Thanks. – Kev Nov 9 '09 at 19:03
Service Level Agreement, that dictates many things, such as acceptable downtime and response time for issues. – DanBig Nov 9 '09 at 19:07
@Dan: Most SLAs I have seen are pretty silly. 'If your T1 is down for more that one day, we will credit you 25% of that cost of the T1 prorated for that day'. Read: We will give you the 2 dollars and thirty three cents if you fill out the paper work located at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.'" – Kyle Brandt Nov 9 '09 at 19:36
@Dan, Warranties on hardware do tend to be useful though :-P – Kyle Brandt Nov 9 '09 at 19:40

The only major difference will be the OS. As a Pro version of the XP operating system, you can control and manage the machines by joining them to an Active Directory domain, and subject them to Group Policy.

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So there really is no hardware difference? – Kev Nov 9 '09 at 19:04
Most likely not, maybe just things like more memory or a faster CPU. – DanBig Nov 9 '09 at 19:06
Unlikely. There might be superfluous things like biometrics (fingerprint reader) but usually it's the same hardware. – Izzy Nov 9 '09 at 19:13

Without any other details, in general "business" models offer the following advantages:

  • Longer refresh period, which allows you to buy the same model a 6 months or a year later
  • A better level of support, so instead of accessing a first level call center in India you are talking to more knowledgeable reps who speak your native language
  • Longer warranty period which may be 3-4 years instead of 90 days or 1 year
  • More "rugged" equipment may be used to support the longer warranty in business environments (i.e. the manufacturer doesn't want to keep replacing cheap plastic cases at their expense)

All of these lower the TCO of the hardware at increased up-front costs. If your vendor is not providing any of the above for their "business" class hardware, then all they are doing is extracting more money from you. Some things like longer refreshes may not even be important to you if you do not use standardized images.

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I know that's true for desktops, but I suspected the latter given the current relative immaturity of the netbook market. – Kev Nov 9 '09 at 19:47
It is up to your vendor to prove that they are providing value through one of these means even with netbooks. If not, go with the consumer models or find a more honest vendor. – Doug Luxem Nov 9 '09 at 19:58

Business class systems often have much longer warranty (as noted) and the warranty often includes next day, on site service. Often this type warranty added to an entry level system will bring it close to a business class system. The business warranty also may allow access to better trained techs if you call for support.

The construction is often much better with stronger/lighter materials used in the frame and case. The screen often is brighter and may support higher resolutions. Video cards designed for applications like AutoCAD and SolidCAD are often available and that is usually not the case with "home/consumer" devices.

There is often little “bloatware” on commercial systems.

Some business laptops are moisture resistant and have better drop resistance than consumer devices (Lenovo for one).

Hard drives are sometimes faster 7200RPM drives while many consumer devices could be 4200 RPM or 5400RPM.

There are also things like Trusted Platform Module that may be on a Business class system that is not on the consumer system

I guess the bottom line is that you can determine if any of these are value for you.

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Others have made the point already but if the person you are talking to can't articulate these points effectively then move on and find someone who can.

The main reasons for the price differential are those outlined by DLux & DaveM - much longer support lifetime, longer platform refresh, more rugged components.

For high end business laptops and Desktops you are generally paying a huge premium for third part software certification - high end CAD\CAM\3D modelling software. When you are spending $100-$200k per workstation for software licenses you are paying to make sure that you have someone to sort your problem out if it doesn't work. These tend to be specific "workstation" class systems, such as the Dell Precision line and not your general purpose business laptop.

As far as power supplies are concerned this is not totally outrageous. Part of the long term management of costs for client systems includes reuse of peripherals - continuity of power supply and docking station design across generations means that you don't have to buy all the accessories when you refresh systems, you just get a replacement box. For bulk business ordering this makes sense.

One final point is that most business class desktops and laptops now include some level of hardware remote management capability (Intel's AMT, AMD's ASF) that can provide out of band management capability with the right support infrastructure. This is of almost no benefit in consumer environments but it (should) be an important factor in a large business environment and like everything else the chip\chipset vendors like to get a nice fee for enabling these features.

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Thanks, but I asked about netbooks. +1 anyway for the reuse of peripherals part. – Kev Nov 17 '09 at 16:06
Which, I mean, I still don't know if it's true for netbooks, but it's possible. – Kev Nov 17 '09 at 16:07

In general you'd expect "business class" goods and services to have a somewhat higher overall quality in a number of areas. To take your DSL example, "business class" DSL would (or at least should) have better contention ratios, a better SLA (including more pro-active response) and potentially penalty clauses should the provider not be able to supply the amount of uptime they quote you. It ain't just all about speed.

To be honest I'm quite surprised to learn that there are now business class netbooks, but then again maybe I've just been out of the end-user hardware arena for too long.

I would pin down the supplier and try to extract from them exactly what else you are getting for your money. It is after all your money and if they're not forthcoming with answers you don't need to give it to them, do you?

Another good test might be to see if they are prepared to loan you a machine on eval.

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