Micron creates training, ed programs

Micron Electronics Inc. today launched an initiative to offer customized education and services online, both of which are aimed at making it easier for customers to understand the technology with which they are working.

The company has developed a program called Micron University through which it will offer computer training online. As part of the rollout, Micron also has revamped the technical information on its World Wide Web site to assist users in buying computers.

The initiative recognizes the increasing importance of technical training and support as the use of computers grows but information technology staffing shrinks, according to Micron. Micron University also recognizes the value of the Web as a venue for these offerings.

"The basic philosophy is that it's not just about delivering powerful computers; it's about building powerful users," said Judith Bitterli, vice president and general manager of Micron Web. "This is very, very focused on how to use the tools to improve the environment they're in."

"We are reinventing ourselves for the future," said Harry Heisler, vice president and general manager of Micron Government Systems. Heisler expects to be working with agencies in the future to customize training for federal needs.

Analysts described training and education as important parts of the selling process for users and the company.

"Informed buyers tend to...not only know what they want but are easier to serve," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, San Jose, Calif.

Interactive Courses

Micron University, which can be accessed with software integrated into every new Micron PC, is the result of a partnership between Micron and Ziff-Davis Education to offer online interactive training courses.

The instructor-led courses meet twice a week, with "office hours" for questions and extra help. The program also includes a "student union" for student interaction and an affiliation with Barnes & Noble and Software.net for discounts on textbooks and tutorials.

Micron itself is offering tech clinics and seminars as well as self-paced tutorials on specific issues and applications.

Each system will ship with tutorials matching its specific configuration. Next year Micron University will offer live Webcasts addressing topics at specific organizations, and users will be able to subscribe to receive news and updates on developments at Micron, Bitterli said.

Micron has not announced federal pricing, but new buyers can sign up for the university for free the first year and then pay $59.95 every year after that. The company also offers contracts for entire organizations that want to sign up for the program and an option for people who purchased Micron systems before Nov. 2.

In putting the program together, Micron went into its Web site and revamped the data about its computers to make the information more accessible. "We rewrote everything," Bitterli said. Every technical aspect of a system is explained and described in "real English," she said.

Users entering the site will create a basic profile that will put them in a "community" of similar buyers. For federal buyers, there will be areas with contract-specific systems and information, Heisler said.

Once in that area, a buyer can pick a system in any of three ways. A list of pre-configured systems is made available, based on the needs that would best fit the user's profile. The site also offers a shopping assistant feature that will help put together a system while updating the price and offering suggestions, such as adjusting the amount of memory for a particular configuration.

The site also includes specific user solutions that come up during the configuration process to serve as real-life examples for buyers.

"They've tried to make it somewhat intelligent...and humanize it, put some relevant experience into it," said Roger Kay, an analyst at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

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