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Student systems

Youthful entrepreneur aims computers at college market

Eighteen-year old whiz kid Chris Mole has set up his own computer business selling PCs to the student population.

Having had difficulty finding a suitable computer for his studies, Mole set up Studentdesktops.com to service the three million students currently in full-time education.

Mole thinks that students can be intimidated by the sales tactics used in high street stores: "When I visited a high street store I was pounced on by the sales advisors." He also believes that students will not get the best value for money on the high street, and Studentdesktops vows to meet or better the price of any specification students can find in a retail store.

Mole says Studentdesktops doesn't aim to compete with direct manufacturers, rather his company is aimed at PC novices who would normally buy on the high street. To meet the needs of such users, all the specifications for the PCs are written in "layman's language", and the company is in the process of setting up a call centre in Newcastle to advise students which PC to buy.

"As we are all ex-students we understand their needs, and we can advise them," explains Mole.

At the budget end of the scale, Studentdesktops has a £579 PC powered by an AMD Athlon XP 1600+ processor with 128MB SDRAM, 40GB hard drive, 52-speed CD-ROM, Windows XP Home edition, a whopping five-year warranty, free delivery and free email technical support.

The PCs are made by PC Advisor stalwart SSC Carrera, which also handles tech support. Repairs will be managed by a third party — Repairline. Mole believes the free support will appeal to his customers who might otherwise find themselves shelling out hundreds for an extended warranty.

A price tag of £579 seems a relatively good deal — a quick look on Dell's website reveals that £526 will only buy you a Dimension 2200 PC based on a slower 1.4GHz Celeron, 128MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive with a mere 12 months support. But as we haven't tested a Studentdesktops PC, we can't comment on the quality of the company's machines or its tech support.

The site has received financial backing from two engineering firms, British Engines and Hedley Purvis. It is also the first startup company to be endorsed by the NUS (National Union of Students), which is promoting the PCs to its members and has recently won a contract with Blackwells bookshops to stock Studentdesktops computers in its university stores.

Mole predicts a first-year turnover £4.5m and hopes his success will encourage more youngsters to set up their own firms.


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