NetDay Educates Beyond School Years

In the early days of the personal computer industry, Apple Computer Inc. initiated a volume sales scheme that quickly became an annual rite of autumn at numerous colleges across the country.

In mid- to late September, the computer maker would fill several large trucks with thousands of newly minted Macintosh computers and drive them on to university campuses. Students would huddle around the vehicle's back bumper as Apple's education SWAT team lured new customers with extra-steep discounts and free Apple T-shirts, mouse pads and beer mugs.

These weekend-long selling sprees were labeled "dump-athons" by neighboring computer retailers who saw their Macintosh sales take a dive as Apple's direct sales initiatives undercut the manufacturer's reseller discounts.

The intersection of industry and education has always been fraught with generous discounts and undisclosed motives. And so it is with NetDay, where a coalition of industry and community volunteers have collaborated to wire the nation's schools for Internet use.

Internet access demand is soaring and the dawn of high-speed, high-bandwidth networking is challenging the technology industry to deliver to the classroom what the high-costs of PCs denied -- a computer on every desktop.

The challenge is enormous. This week Washington Technology examines the complex partnerships driving this effort in a special feature titled "Education Bonanza for Infotech," beginning on page 34.

According to the organizers of NetDay 96, there are about 107,000 primary and secondary schools in the United States with more than 55 million students. This year's NetDay expects to wire 20 percent of all U.S. primary and secondary schools, or 21,000 institutions.

Boeing, Bell Atlantic and Oracle are among the most active industry participants and have donated not only a mix of money, products and services, but are encouraging their employees to volunteer their time. In Washington, most of the wiring is expected to be completed during the four Saturdays in October.

An article on page 35 written by WT Staff Writer Shannon Henry helps detail the coalition's efforts as the month of execution approaches.

Despite the Internet's massive following, certain industry consultants claim it will be at least five years before any money will be made by the industry's school wiring plans.

But as Apple demonstrated, today's students are tomorrow's consumers. And just as the first Macintosh graduates entered corporate America favoring point-and-click operating systems, NetDay's wired legacy will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on America's youth.

Not unlike Apple, whose heavy education discounting eventually helped the manufacturer gain a toe-hold inside corporate America, NetDay vendors seem poised to educate America's youth well beyond their school years.

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