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Saint Mary’s iStore on the rise

April Thomas | Wednesday, September 8, 2004

The Saint Mary’s campus iStore reinforces the old adage that – even when it comes to technology – it’s not what you know, but who you know. Through vendor agreements, the iStore allows Saint Mary’s students, faculty, staff and alumnae, and Notre Dame and Holy Cross College students to purchase computer equipment, software and cellular service at discounted rates.Founded last year, the iStore has shown improved profit this fall – 30 percent, according to Keith Fowlkes, director of Information Technology at the College. But profits are not first on the iStore’s priority list.”We are looking at this as a student service venture more than [as] a revenue stream for the college,” Fowlkes saidHe attributed this focus to a merger between iStore’s former most popular vendor, OmniTech, and MPC, which yielded better prices and a new standard three-year warranty.The popularity of Macintosh’s OS X operating system boosted sales of Apple computers, which were on display at the iStore’s kiosk during summer orientation events. Here parents and students could buy computer systems, accessories, and software – including a Windows XP Professional update vital for compatibility with the Saint Mary’s network. “For the first time, students can purchase Microsoft software at even lower than normal educational discounts,” said Fowlkes.The iStore upgrade cost students approximately $70 with shipping. Circuit City’s Grape Road location did not display standard upgrades, but offered the entire XP Professional operating system for $299.99.However, sales of cellular service, though a campus staple, have fallen short.”NEXTEL sales have been down even though students could get the 10 percent discount,” said Fowlkes.Many students said they simply did not know about the cellular option. Others had existing loyalties with home-based companies. “I was in the market for a new phone, but I still probably wouldn’t have [gone through iStore] because I’m on a family plan and it seems like too much of a hassle,” senior Katie Nallon said.Fowlkes acknowledged that the new iStore is still gaining recognition among students. To further the store’s efforts this year, Information Technology promoted the service to incoming first-year students.”Students received the brochure in April and again during orientation, along with pricing information,” he said.With advance notice, the iStore predicted students could arrange to address technology needs on campus. It was apparent during orientation technology meetings how many first-years took advantage of the service said Camille Kelly, a Le Mans Hall Residential Computer Consultant.”At least a quarter to a half of the students at each meeting raised their hands when asked if they bought from the iStore,” she said.A year into its existence, the iStore is building a positive repertoire of patrons, with Resident Network records showing satisfied, less-inconvenienced customers Fowlkes said.”If our information is correct,” he said, “the campus iStore is fulfilling its purpose.”