Mon, 24 Feb 2003

Notebook computer buyers have more choices

Sudibyo M. Wiradji, Contributor, Jakarta

Even though a desktop computer remains popular for individual or office use, the laptop or notebook computers are becoming increasingly popular in Indonesia.

Despite its size and weight, a laptop offers specifications and features comparable to those of desktop computers. For a particular series, the notebook has more features that you cannot find in a personal desktop computer.

Laptops started to appear on the Indonesian market in the early 1990s and since then, the demand has grown significantly.

Standard specifications of a laptop include processor, memory, hardisk, built-in modem, connecting network and optical drive.

New series of laptops of different brands now on the market also feature processors with Pentium 4, USP ports and bluetooth and wifi wireless. The bluetooth & wifi wireless allow for the connections with a cellular phone without using a physical connection.

This might explain partly why using a laptop is highly preferable. An executive, for instance, might prefer using a laptop when he or she has to go somewhere to give a presentation at a seminar or conference.

It is no wonder that the demand for laptops, be it new or second-hand, continues to rise. Laptop brands available in the local market include Acer, Acus, Compaq, Dell, ECS, Extron, Fujitsu, IBM, MITAC, MUGEN, NEC, Prestigio, Sony, Toshiba, Twinhead and Zyrex.

Each brand has its own type or model and series but when linked to what customers really need, there seems to be an 'unwritten marketing perspective' that divides the laptop into 'economy', 'powerful' and 'full of technology' classes.

Basically, what model or series of a laptop a customer wants will depend on his or her own needs. For instance, when a customer uses a laptop mostly for writing, then he or she might take one from the "economy" class, which is cheaper than the ones from the "powerful" or "full of technology" class.

But when a customer uses a laptop for various purposes, such as designing, programming or displaying pictures or graphics for presentation, then he or she might take the one with "full of technology" class.

Computer traders said that when it came to hardware, the market responded positively to laptops with smaller size and lightness.

Fujitsu of Japan, the producer of Notebook, Tablet PC and PDA, recently launched its new product series called Tablet PC, a handwriting recognition device.

Introduced in Singapore in November 2003, Tablet PC entered Indonesian market in early 2003. It can convert handwriting and human voices into text. Most also have an infrared connection capability, no physical connection, (i.e. cables or cords) is needed. It is only 1.48 kg in weight, with display screen measuring 10.4 inches.

The battery life is 4.5 hours, compared to an average of 3 hours for most others. "Tablet PC is suited for those who work in a field," PT Nexcom Technology's Marketing Manager Daniel Septiandy said.

Notebooks from Fujitsu are distributed in Indonesia by PT Nexcom Technology with its central office in Surabaya, East Java. Its Jakarta branch office is located on the Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX) building on Jl. Sudirman, South Jakarta.

How about the prices? Compared to the prices for desktops, a laptop costs higher. Commonly, features and brands are factors contributing to the prices for a laptop. "A notebook with high capacity processor and memory, and with a bigger screen is much more costly. Or the smaller a notebook is, the higher the price is," explained PT Bhinneka Mentari Dimensi's Sales & Marketing, Multi Media Division Budy Kurniawan.

On average, the price of the newer laptops range from US$800 (about Rp 7.5 million) to US$3,500 (about Rp 33 million), depending on the brand, model and series.

If you are on a tight budget, you can buy new ACER TM 225 X. or a Toshiba Satellite 110 at about Rp 9 million. But if money is not an issue, then you can buy a Fujitsu Lifebook C2210 priced at US$2,550 or Fujitsu Lifebook E7010 at US$3,585 or Toshiba Portege 3500 at US$2,615. If you require an IBM, you can get the cheapest IBM Thinkpad R32 ABA at US$1,450. The highest price for an IBM notebook is the IBM Thinkpad A31R54 at US$2,875.

Fujitsu notebooks are relatively higher priced because they offer more features and better quality. The price of a Fujitsu notebook is between US$1,500 and US$3,500.

Distributors or dealers of laptops provide easy access to customers wishing to buy a laptop. Customers, for instance, can order a particular brand of laptop via e-mail or by phone. Backed up with technicians, the dealers allow prospective buyers to consult first before eventually deciding to buy one.

The pertaining purchasing system is "cash and carry" but particular dealers might allow a customer to buy on credit provided all terms and conditions are fulfilled.

PT Bhinneka Mentari Dimensi, for instance, offers a credit scheme allowing a customer to pay by installments with installment term of between three and 24 months.

"If a customer pays through Citibank Ezzy Pay, he or she does not have to pay a downpayment," he said.

Even though the distributors of particular brands have their own authorized service center, retailers also offer technicians to handle a repairs of new laptops suffering a technical problem.

"We don't want the concerned customer to bother himself carrying his damaged laptop to our distributors' service center so our staff will pick it up and repair it," one distributor said.

PT Nexcom Technology offers after-sale service for its customers. "If the problem is related to software, the customers should contact the dealer where he or she bought the computer," said Daniel of PT Nexcom Technology.

"But when the problems are related to hardware, the customer is advised to send it to the distributor at the Jakarta Stock Exchange (BEJ) Service Center for repairs without extra charge in warranty periods," he added.