Tablet firms query bid specifications

Potential bidders for the One Tablet Per Child scheme are urging the government to drop "unnecessary" technical features that cause prices to balloon.

They said the government should avoid repeating the same mistakes that marred the previous round of bidding two years ago when procurements of hardware and software were separated.

The call showed that international computer makers are keen on the low-cost tablet project as they try to revive sales in the country's sluggish computer market.

Caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng had said an e-auction for the third phase worth 4.6 billion baht would be held in June.

Sontiya Nujeenseng, country manager of Intel Microelectronics (Thailand), said bidding on a turnkey basis, instead of separate auctions, would be more realistic and practical as the winning bidder can supply the whole package to include hardware, software, server, content and applications and classroom management software.

A turnkey project would also enhance e-learning and teaching in the classroom, he added.

Mr Sontiya urged the government to start its planned end-to-end education system under the Smart Classroom project for the third-phase tablet project to increase the efficiency of teaching and learning in the classroom.

He said turnkey bidding could also avoid price dumping by Chinese tablet makers as they offer what he called too-low prices and low-quality products.

The government should not repeat its mistake from the past auction two years ago when a Chinese supplier terminated its purchasing contract with the government to supply its tablets for the second phase after it found its production costs were higher than the proposed price.

Moreover, there are unnecessary specifications for near field communication (NFC) in the terms of reference draft. The NFC chip that costs about US$10 may not be used by students as they can transfer files via WiFi and Bluetooth.

This NFC cost can cover other useful features such as certified international protection for dust and water resistance and remote activate/reactive device security.

“This time, the draft's stipulation that bidders will have to have been established in Thailand for five years is a very good way to eliminate uncommitted bidders,” Mr Sontiya said.

Harry Yang, managing director of Acer Computer (Thailand), said the company wanted to participate in the bid. However, he is concerned as the NFC feature is not a spec standard for tablets and it will make the price unnecessarily high.

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