Toshiba gets aggressive on wireless

Eager to encourage its customers to test the waters of mobile wireless connectivity, Toshiba Corp. this month kicked off two aggressive wireless promotions timed with the introduction of new portable computers.

Toshiba has designed its new “Go Wireless. Guaranteed” and “Bluetooth Meeting” promotions to reduce the financial risk for companies wanting to try either 802.11b LAN wireless technology or the wireless personal area network solution Bluetooth, according to Mike Wagner, the vice-president of marketing for notebook and desktop systems with Toshiba Americas Information Systems, headquartered in Irvine, Calif. Both promotions will run through Sept. 30.

“Right now, the majority of companies out there are not sure if wireless will work for them, and this is a perfect opportunity to try wireless in their environment,” Wagner said.

Under the terms of the “Go Wireless. Guaranteed” promotion, customers receive Toshiba’s on-site installation service of a 802.11b wireless network for US$795, down from US$1,200. Toshiba is also discounting the components of the 802.11b wireless network, dropping the base-station 802.11b access point from US$899 to US$749, and offering the wireless PC cards for US$149 each. Toshiba will also knock 10 per cent off any new Toshiba Tecra or Satellite portable computer purchased with the installed wireless package.

“And after 30 days, a company can return the entire thing, with a money back guarantee, if they don’t like [the wireless package],” Wagner said.

Toshiba’s “Bluetooth Meeting” promotion gives companies 3 business days to pre-flight Toshiba’s SPANworks Bluetooth software and PC cards, free of charge. Qualified companies who submit a request to Toshiba to take part in the Bluetooth Meeting promotion are shipped 6 possibly mixed-model Toshiba laptops loaded with the software and PC cards. Toshiba foots the bill for the shipping and the return of the systems.

“We are going to let IT try Bluetooth for free,” Wagner said.

Tim Scannell, an analyst with Mobile Insights, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., agreed that while 802.11b is ready for prime time, it may be too early to ask IT to spend any money investigating Bluetooth.

“802.11 is a pretty sure technology, and the enterprise has recognized it is a wireless alternative as far as local networking. So no surprise that [Toshiba is] promoting it as the standard. But the Bluetooth [promotion] I have to question,” says Scannell.

“Right now it’s premature to guess that the saturation might be for Bluetooth. And at this point in time, even if you have a Bluetooth PC there is really nothing else out there to catch the signal. It would be like shouting into the wind,” Scannell said, adding that “Bluetooth will change significantly over the next two years,” and that it may be wise to wait for improvements that the technology still sorely needs.”

In synch with the promotion, Toshiba introduced two new business laptops this month, the Tecra 8200 and the Satellite Pro 4600. Both models offer integrated 802.11b wireless technology in every configuration, said Toshiba’s Wagner.

The 5.5-pound Tecra 8200 with an 850MHz Intel Pentium III SpeedStep processor, a 20GB hard drive, and 802.11b, starts at US$3,499. A 7.4-pound Satellite Pro 4600, designed for companies looking for a lower acquisition cost, offers the same amount of memory and processor speed with fewer configuration options for US$2,999, Wagner said.

Toshiba also introduced two consumer notebook computers, the Satellite 2805 and 1700, which Wagner said were “gaming notebook computers” available for just over US$1,000.