Ingram Micro Unveils Comprehensive Chromebook Offering

Ingram Micro is looking to make a big splash with its recent dive into the Chromebook for the K-12 market.

The Santa Ana, Calif.-based distributor has over the past two months reached agreements with 65 channel partners to resell Google Chrome solutions, according to Bill Waters, senior manager of field technical operations.

Although fellow distributors Synnex and Tech Data had already entered the Chromebook market, Waters said Ingram Micro hopes to differentiate itself through integrated services.

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Ingram Micro will conduct a complete wireless assessment of the school building prior to installation to ensure the network is capable of supporting all the new devices, Waters said.

Plus Ingram Micro said it will load security protections and other needed materials onto the devices so that they're ready for use as soon as they arrive at the school.

"We Ingram-ized this, and it has blown up," Waters said.

Priced at just $270 -- a fraction of a traditional laptop or tablet -- and capable of booting up in just eight seconds since most applications and data reside in the cloud, Chromebooks have caught on like wildfire.

Google device shipments have enjoyed a compound annual growth rate of 415 percent over the past two years, while usage of Google Apps for Education has grown fivefold on a year-over-year basis, said Lauren Miskelly, Google's head of North American education sales, at the ONE Ingram Micro event in Las Vegas. She expects more school districts will move to the cloud in the next few years.

Google has been focused on providing a full-service education portfolio, Miskelly said, offering devices such as the Chromebook; platforms such as Google Apps for Education; and quality content through Google and elsewhere.

Chromebooks have had an outsized impact in the K-12 vertical since teachers can easily control what their students can and cannot access on the notebook, Waters said.

Contracts between a school district and solution provider normally run in the $20,000 to $50,000 range, Waters said.

Chromebook hardware sales don't offer solution providers much of a margin opportunity, Waters said, since Google insists on maintaining a low price point.

Margins are more plentiful, though, with management console sales, Waters said. The console allows all Chromebook accounts to be managed from a single screen, meaning even large school districts won't need to bring on an entire staff for management purposes.

Professional services, though, will offer solution providers the highest margins, Waters said.

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Ingram Micro was already a provider of education services through Microsoft's Shape the Future program, Waters said, meaning the Chromebook deal will allow the distributor to offer its channel partners a broader selection.

"This is about choice," he said. "This is about empowering our resellers with what's most important to them."

Microsoft has dropped the price of its operating system license in response to the Chromebook, though Waters said the Chrome OS laptops still will be less expensive.

Solution provider GBS of Wilmington, N.C., experienced just how quickly Chromebooks can catch on with school districts.

GBS has purchased Hewlett-Packard products for Ohio's Austintown Local School District since 2010, and in 2013 was asked to acquire a variety of HP devices, including 754 desktops with monitors, 60 laptops and 383 Chromebooks, for the district, according to Bill Malchano, GBS' executive account manager.

Austintown was so impressed with the Chromebooks' management tools and their ability to allow students to do realtime collaborative work over the web that it asked for more of them -- many more.

The district ordered 3,000 Chromebooks through GBS in a deal that was worth roughly $1 million, with Ingram Micro handling the Wi-Fi setup and white-glove configuration, Malchano said. The devices are expected to be delivered to Austintown in late September, he said.

Margin opportunities are bolstered through adds-on such as charging carts, ClearPacks, cases and spare batteries, Malchano said.

Over the lifetime of each device, the Chromebook is expected to cost $5,200 less than a traditional laptop or desktop. It also offers longer battery life than a traditional laptop, a one-year battery warranty (as opposed to 90 days for a conventional notebook) and a popular screen size, he said.

Word-of-mouth on Austintown's success has gotten out fast, Malchano said, with GBS recently selling 20 Chromebooks to a North Carolina school district.