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IBM Could Sell PC Division

Officials say it’s too early to assess impact on Harvard-IBM purchasing deal

By Susan E. Mcgregor, Crimson Staff Writer

Despite rumors that IBM may sell its personal computer division, University officials said that it is too early to tell what effect such a sale would have on the ability of Harvard affiliates to buy discounted IBM computers through Harvard.

Unconfirmed reports in the New York Times and Washington Post last weekend suggested that IBM may sell its personal computer division to the Chinese company Lenovo. An IBM spokesperson would not confirm or deny the rumor.

Daniel D. Moriarty, assistant provost and chief information officer for Harvard University, said that the Harvard community should be “cautious not to speculate on a rumor.”

“I would be extremely surprised at any material impact on pricing to students [of IBM computers] in the next 12 months,” he said.

Since April of 2003, Harvard staff, faculty, students and alumni have been able to purchase IBM computers and accessories at deep discounts. The discounts come thanks to a collective purchasing agreement that lets Harvard leverage its buying power. Currently, Harvard affiliates can purchase IBM laptops and desktops for what IBM contends is around a 40 percent discount off the web price. Accessories are discounted about 20 percent, according to Harvard’s University Information Services website.

Although Harvard is still awaiting an official comment from IBM later this week, Moriarty said of the possible sale that “imagining its impact on Harvard is premature.”

IBM was chosen in 2002 as Harvard’s primary vendor of personal computers and laptops after a bid process that included IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. In the end, it was determined that, “IBM offered very competitive pricing, an ongoing pricing methodology that supported our goals, strong service and support, and dedicated commitment to product research and development,” Moriarty wrote in a 2002 press release.

Even if IBM steps back from personal computing, the company holds other benefits for Harvard.

“IBM’s strengths have been R & D and innovation,” Moriarty said.

Last year Harvard won an IBM Shared University Research award to develop the “Crimson Grid.” The project would turn all of the University’s networked computers into nodes of a massive supercomputer to assist in research with heavy processing demands.

According to Moriarty, however, PC discounts to students “are really important to us.”

But even if the rumored sale should affect Harvard’s current agreement, the University would have a number of options, Moriarity said. “A big part of any new program would be to preserve student discounts,” he said.

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