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Some Relationships are Tough to Maintain

An Indiana school district is suing one of its technology vendors, claiming the more-than 7,000 netbooks it purchased have a design flaw that the vendor is refusing to repair or otherwise solve.

The dispute, between the the 22,500-student Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, and local technology supplier Matrix Integration, is chronicled here in the Evansville Courier-Press. And it sounds like a nightmare for everyone involved.

With that quantity of netbooks for that size of a district, it's safe to assume one-to-one usage, meaning every failed machine equals a student who won't be able to keep up in class without a loaner. Meanwhile, HP certainly won't like the attention and perception that they are shortchanging students, and neither will Matrix Integration, who has to be the face for complaints about a product they didn't actually produce.

Maintenance tiffs are only going to increase in frequency as districts become more reliant on technology. Back in March, I wrote a story about some districts who are trying to keep more warranty repairs in house to cut lag time and costs, but their capabilities would be overwhelmed with a major mechanical flaw like the district alleges this is. Further, as one of my stories in our upcoming issue of Digital Directions will point out, many districts are simply being more vigilant in negotiations with their vendors because times are tight.

The Courier-Press story may be suggesting that HP knew about the defect and tried to minimize it when it says newer models of the netbook (that don't have the flaw) were already available by the time EVSC's shipment was delivered. But as the poll question alongside the story points out, there may be plenty responsibility to go around.

While a manufacturer should neither be selling a defective product or refusing to absorb losses when it does, if EVSC is buying such a large quantity, shouldn't the testing go on long enough to detect such a flaw? And doesn't the same go for Matrix Integration, who should still have some say over exactly what products they provide from HP?

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