updated 06:40 pm EDT, Mon June 11, 2012
Agreement provides for regular updates, content management
The United States Department of State recently announced that it had awarded a $16.5 million contract to Amazon for the provision of e-reader and tablet devices for State Department employees. The contract was awarded on a no-bid basis, meaning Amazon secured the arrangement without the Department considering other manufacturers. In a companion filing (PDF) explaining the no-bid nature of the contract, the Department noted that Amazon's Kindle was the only device that provided the functionality necessary to fulfill its needs.
The State Department cited an ongoing, repetitive requirement for e-readers in order to disseminate materials to its employees both in the United States and abroad. Any device chosen would have to support wireless connectivity, central management, text-to-speech, and a number of other requirements. Battery life was also a chief concern.
The document justifying the no-bid contract points out that the Department considered other e-readers from Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Kobo, finding that they lacked text-to-speech and global free Wi-Fi, and that they did not match the Kindle's battery life. The document also notes that the Department considered Apple's iPad, as the device met many of the necessary requirements. The iPad, though, was ultimately rejected, as its additional features were found to constitute a security risk and it lacked the requisite battery life and centrally managed platform for registration and content delivery.
Among other things, the contract calls for Amazon to provide a content distribution and management platform whereby the Department will push content to its employees Kindles. Amazon will also provide 3G services globally for the Department, as well as an exclusive, private online document repository. The contract also calls for Amazon to upgrade the State Department's devices as necessary, in order to maintain the currentness of its employees' technology.
Among federal bodies, the State Department has been notable in its efforts to modernize and push new technology out to its employees in the field. Recently, the Department dropped Internet Explorer in favor of Google's Chrome browser, citing frustration with IE's slow performance.