Over the past 30 years computers have become one of the central tools in technology and science. Many universities have established desktop computer workspaces for use by students.
The mobile use of computer has, in recent years, become pervasive and is now part of our everyday lives.
In 2001, the ETH World initiative launched a project at ETH Zurich whose goal it was to equip ETH students with high quality mobile computers at a price manageable for students (presumably only few remember that the cost for a fully equipped IBM laptop at the time was around CHF 7'000; a sum that barely any students could afford). In order to ensure that the quality requirements were met the corresponding work group established an evaluation and testing process which encompasses the hardware as well as manufacturer services.
Projekt Neptun was launched as a pilot at three departments of ETH Zurich. After a successful outcome the project was extended to include all departments of ETH.
Extension to All Swiss Universities and Integration into the Foundation SD
Once Projekt Neptun had been successfully established within ETH Zurich, the program was made available to all members of Swiss institutions of higher education between 2005 and 2007 in a step by step progression. The evaluation process underwent refinement and the range of offerings was adapted to ensure that the requirements of students of all types of study backgrounds are met. In 2011, the longtime Neptun collaborators Lisa von Boehmer and Dominik Candreia together with the Association of ETH Students – VSETH - founded a spinoff company, Stonepine Labs GmbH, with the aim of further developing Projekt Neptun and ensuring its continuation. In May 2016, Projekt Neptun was integrated into the non-profit Foundation SD - Stiftung Studenten-Discount.
What Makes Neptun Different?
Projekt Neptun has been providing students and higher education employees with high quality devices and support services for over a decade. Neptun's offerings differs from other vendors in multiple ways:
- Quality: One of our main concerns is the quality of the offered hardware. Our goal is to provide students with a device that will accompany them throughout their studies and does not require frequent replacement or repair. In the end, this is beneficial for both the student's finances as well as the environment.
- Evaluation: To ensure that the products we offer meet our quality requirements we conduct a thorough evaluation of laptop manufacturers and their hardware every 2 to 3 years. All known manufacturers are encouraged to participate in the evaluation by making proposals according to a list of criteria supplied by Projekt Neptun. Subsequently, Projekt Neptun conducts in-depth testing on both the hardware as well as the services offered by the manufacturers (hotlines, service repairs etc.). Criteria that we deem of particular importance in a student's everyday life - such as robustness - are carefully monitored during the evaluation process. The evaluation committee consists of IT specialists and student representatives of various higher ed institutions. The manufacturers who perform best in the evaluation process are then selected by the committee and are offered a 2-3 year partnership with Projekt Neptun. But not only the manufacturers are submitted to an evaluation process but also the hardware that is selected for each sales period. The devices are usually business line machines that often times aren't even commercially available in the same configuration. The devices are tested in order to ensure that our offers contain the latest technological advancements and the strict quality requirements Projekt Neptun imposes on its offerings are met. This may help to explain why it is not Neptun's aim to offer the cheapest hardware available.
- Sales windows: The recommended Projekt Neptun hardware can be ordered at the beginning of each semester, during so-called sales windows. The sale takes place exclusively online through our distribution partners.
Due to the restriction on sales window, it is possible to achieve very high discounts on the offered hardware. The availability of Neptun models is guaranteed during the sales period - something that can usually not be realized in a full-year sale. We are also able to offer devices with U.S. keyboard and/or devices without OS, which are not otherwise available in Switzerland.
- Demo days: Since Projekt Neptun units can only be acquired via online purchase, the Neptun team tours universities an colleges throughout Switzerland. On this tour, the offered hardware is presented onsite and students as well as employees have the opportunity to ask questions or seek advice, which devices best meet the requirements of a particular course of study or the respective individual needs.
- Support services: Since it is not the goal of the Projekt Neptun to simply sell a edvice and then leave the customer to himself, there is a range of support options, from which Neptune customers can profit. Among these is a consulting service for people who are considering the acquisition of a Neptune device. We offer coaching by e-mail and/or telephone. Students can also stop by personally during the demo days or the help points.
For problems with a Neptune computer, customers also have to option of contacting us by e-mail or telephone or by visiting one of the help points. The Neptun help points are support service points, which are currently available in Basel, Lucerne and Zurich. For questions or problems Neptun customers may stop by during the opening hours or arrange an appointment by sending an e-mail to Projekt Neptun. The help points are located either inside a University building or only a short distance from the Universities.
- Laptop-for-rent: Projekt Neptun has a pool of laptops that are lent to customers whose Neptun computer must be sent in for repair. The customer can use the Neptun replacement device for duration of the repair free of charge. Also, in case of theft a Neptun rental can help bridge the gap until a new computer can be acquired..
The points mentioned above are a non-exhaustive list of possible benefits of Projekt Neptun that may not be available from other vendors. It is one of our main aims to equip students with the best possible hardware to ensure that their computer lasts for a long time - preferentially for the entire time of study. It is equally important to us to support Neptun customers in a timely manner should they experience problems with their Neptun devices.