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How Valuable are Interactive Display Extended Warranties to Schools?

  • BenQ
  • 2021-06-24

For expensive classroom technology projects such as projectors, whiteboards, and interactive displays, a key part of the evaluation process is the warranty of the product.  Because most schools don’t have the resources to repair a projector or interactive touch display, districts often rely heavily on manufacturer support.  But are longer warranties a better deal for the school?

Product Lifecycle Risk in Classroom technology

Interactive displays for classrooms are an exciting new technology that will empower teachers for hybrid classrooms and enable new teaching innovations such as flipped classrooms and split screen teaching.  In 2004, there was a similar technology transition as classrooms adopted interactive whiteboards and multimedia projectors into their classrooms.   Just like today, there were lots of choices of many brands to choose from – most of whom offered extended warranties – or other deals like “free bulbs for life.” 

According to Futuresource, there were over 15 major brands of interactive whiteboards sold to schools in 2004, many from familiar brands such as NEC, Hitachi, and 3M.  In 2020, there are only two major brands of interactive whiteboards- Smart and Promethean.

For projectors, it is a similar story.  In 2006, Futuresource reported 26 major brands of projectors sold to schools, with Epson and BenQ being respective market leaders of LCD and DLP technology.   In 2021 there are only seven major brands selling state-of the-art laser projectors to schools.  Market and technology challenges caused large classroom brands such as Sanyo, InFocus, Hitachi, and Casio to abandon the market, which is an IT manager’s worst nightmare after investing in these companies products –often time with long term bond funding.  This can make it hard for schools to order replacement lamps and other parts – forcing the school to buy new projectors.

Projector Brands in Education

Still Selling To Schools?

Projector Brands in Education
BenQ

Still Selling To Schools?

Yes

Projector Brands in Education
Epson

Still Selling To Schools?

Yes

Projector Brands in Education
Hitachi

Still Selling To Schools?

No

Projector Brands in Education
InFocus

Still Selling To Schools?

No

Projector Brands in Education
Dell

Still Selling To Schools?

No

Projector Brands in Education
Casio

Still Selling To Schools?

No

Unique Risks Extended Warranties with Classroom Interactive Displays

Just like in the early days of projectors – there are a large number of companies selling Interactive displays to schools.  Futuresource tracks the market share of major brands such as Smart, BenQ, and Promethean, and each one of these brands has a #1 market share position in multiple countries – and a proven track record of customer support for classroom displays for over a decade.

But in North America, the second largest brand of interactive displays was “Other.” While small brands often are more innovative on certain features, many of these brands try to win business by offering schools both a low purchase price – and a longer than average warranty.   Is this a case of David vs. Goliath – where schools can get better warranty by going with a smaller company – or is there a catch? Here are some things to look for when assessing the risk of a brand not being able to honor their warranty.

The big problem – the high capital cost of selling interactive displays to schools

Emerging brands who want to catch the wave of schools purchasing interactive displays often purchase generic interactive displays from the same factory with small modifications.  These displays are often paid for up-front, then shipped to the brand’s warehouse to be sold to the school.  Since each display weighs around 100 pounds, shipping and handling costs are high – and shipping a single display across the country can cost as much as $500.   

Will these companies be able to support your school in five years?

With dozens of these brands selling to schools, IT managers should consider looking closely at companies they are partnering with.  For example, there is one company that offers a 75 inch Android powered display with a five year warranty for about $3300 on a major online website.  But a closer look at their logistics and billing address using Google Maps shows the company may have only limited resources.

Some companies selling interactive displays to schools are publicly held companies with shares sold on a stock exchange.  This can make it easier for school officials to evaluate the company’s ability to support them over time, but here is an example of one publically held company that discloses in their recent SEC filing in 2021 that the “ability of the Company to continue is a growing concern and is dependent upon management's ability to raise capital.” A closer look at their financial statement shows that their current liabilities (money they need to pay now) exceeds their current assets (cash and other liquid assets they have now) by almost 400%.  Another publicly traded interactive display company selling to schools lost over $16 million in 2020, nearly double the loss the year before.   

Billing Address

Remittance/ Billing address for one company selling classroom displays on a popular online website

What is required for a brand to properly support an extended warranty for a school?

Adequate material handling capability

Interactive displays are typically shipped by containers, and smaller brands often sell them by the container – never opening it until it arrives at the school for installation.  Brands like BenQ have the logistics resources to handle thousands of large interactive displays such as our 175 pound 86” display from the factory directly to the resellers warehouse or directly to the school.

Spare parts and replacement displays

While BenQ interactive displays go through extensive testing prior to being boxed and shipped, having spare displays is a key part of providing excellent customer service.  If a smaller brand either doesn’t have a replacement display or has to order one from overseas – your classroom can be impacted. BenQ recently upgraded its offices and logistical support, which can accommodate the spare parts and service teams needed to support schools all across North America.

Commitment to Education

BenQ is the world leader for education projectors using DLP technology and have deep relationships with thousands of school districts worldwide for both projectors and interactive displays.  BenQ interactive displays are found in nearly every country in the world – and in 2020, the BenQ RP series display was the most awarded classroom display in North America.

White Glove Service

With a typical display weighing over 100 pounds – the hassle of removing, boxing, shipping, and re-installing a replacement display can create a major burden for school resources – especially if the brand requires you to pay for shipping the product for warranty service.  This cost can be as much as $500.  

BenQ takes a different approach.  With our white glove service, BenQ will send out a replacement display directly to your school if the display is unrepairable, and take back the old one.   All your team needs to do is watch.

Summary

“Too good to be true” usually is exactly that when you are evaluating the right display for your classroom.  Savvy marketers know that schools like to get extra long warranties on their technology, but often don’t check out how strong the company is behind the warranty.   Here are a few things IT managers can check when they are researching a brand they don’t know very well:

  • Where are their offices located (some brands don’t have a US office on their website)
  • How long have they been in business
  • Are they publicly traded on a worldwide exchange – if so – how are they doing
  • Are they simply selling a generic panel with packaged software, or are they developing innovative features for education
  • How long has senior management been there
  • Are they going to merge with another company soon?