Published November 16, 2010
Volume 18, Number 11

PortableOne.com Stands Out Among Mobile Computing Vendors  

Scott Darling, left, and Patrick Reyes with some of their top sellers.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Hundreds of businesses sell laptops online, but there are precious few to rival Hacienda’s PortableOne.com. The 13-year old company specializes in mobile computing. Its staff, a self-described “group of geeks,” is dedicated to providing exceptional personalized service in an industry oriented toward selling off-the-shelf machines as a commodity, explains owner and President Scott Darling.

With just four employees, the small size of the local company belies its reach, which extends into the Fortune 1000, federal and state agencies, all branches of the military, numerous universities, and thousands of small businesses. While the typical order consists of multiple units, as customers seek to equip their workforce with standardized solutions, PortableOne.com also serves individual users, who can make an appointment for a hands-on trial of specific models in the offices at 5627 Stoneridge Drive. All products are sold at a discount to retail.

Portable One understands that businesses rely on efficient information systems in order to gain a competitive advantage, and over several years it has honed its expertise in customizing name-brand laptops so users have all the functionality they need.

“We give customers options that manufacturers don’t provide,” remarks Darling. “New notebooks are loaded with ‘bloatware,’ software available on a free-trial basis that slows the computer down.” Portable One removes the superfluous programs to maximize performance, often installing additional memory, a different operating system, or custom imaging (application software), and upgrading from standard to solid-state hard drives. “A small handful of companies offers these kinds of services, but none has the same breadth we do, carrying as many brands”—Sony, ASUS, Apple, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic, and more, he points out.

Mobile computing also includes netbooks, PDAs, and small tablets, but the vast majority of Portable One’s orders are for notebooks. 

“We have been selling both notebooks and netbooks for years, but laptops are still more popular,” Darling says. In fact, netbook sales are declining. “They were very popular at first, but these days it is increasingly evident that laptops are here to stay. They have come down in price, so for a few hundred dollars more users can get a full-featured, full-powered device.” Laptops have “absolutely” replaced the “big, bulky, noisy desktop” as well.

The company maintains a small warehouse on premises, with a lean, just-in-time approach to inventory. “We have very limited stock. Almost everything we do is special order, and 95 percent of the time we turn orders around in 48 hours,” Darling relates.

The veteran sales staff has attracted a sizable following while building a strong Internet presence. Their broad knowledge base explains why Portable One can provide expert guidance on everything from a convenient-use device costing a few hundred dollars to the rugged and expensive Panasonic Tough Book with a bar code reader and other accessories for use in a munitions warehouse. 

Darling, a former IT executive, took the helm at Portable One two years ago. “I always wanted the top job at a smaller business,” he notes. Recognizing that the company had a strong track record, he also saw tremendous potential and opportunity for taking it to the next level. With sales already doubled in the midst of a challenging economy, he is obviously meeting his goals.


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