Dell said Friday that it will be the first notebook vendor to offer a free one-year subscription to a theft-protection service for three of its notebooks.
Laptop vendors, like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and Sony, embed Absolute Software's Computrace tracking module in the BIOS of all their laptops. Companies either can set them up to report into their own enterprises or Absolute will monitor the tracking and put together audit reports as a service. The buyer generally just needs to contact Absolute and activate the service.
The problem, according to Ken van Wyk, principal consultant for KRvW Associates, is that most IT managers and consumers don't even know the security safeguard is available. "There's an old saying that if you give users a choice between security and dancing pigs, they'll always choose dancing pigs," said van Wyk in an interview. "It's an opt-in feature. Most people probably don't even know it's there and the ones that do rarely choose it. It needs to be set up to work automatically. Make it so it's on by default and you get three months of coverage and then you can buy in to extend it."
That's exactly what Dell is doing.
Anne Camden, a spokesperson for Dell, said in an interview that customers purchasing Dell's XPS M1210 laptop, the XPS M1710 or the XPS M2010 can sign up for one year of free service of Absolute's Computrace LoJack for Laptops theft protection. Customers need to register with LoJack for Laptops upon receipt of the system to activate the service.
The XPS M1210 is a 4-pound, ultra-portable model. The M1710, a high-end laptop with a 17-inch screen, is aimed at gamers, and the M2010, which is aimed at the entertainment market, is an 18-pound model with a 20-inch display.
"Notebooks are going more and more places," said Camden. "People carry them to coffee shops and soccer practice. It's a wider range of people using them... All of that usage carries an increased risk. It won't stop the theft but it will help people recover them."
John Livingston, CEO of Absolute, said in an interview they helped recover more than 1,000 computers for about 500 customers in 2006, and he's predicting that number to surpass 2,500 recovered machines this year.