James Governor's Monkchips

Kindle Simple beats iPad at State Department. NYOD. Amazon as enterprise mobility vendor. Or How much functionality is too much functionality?

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Kindle Unboxing
I came across a fascinating story today, linked to by the Bacon Queen – U.S. State Department chooses Amazon’s Kindle over Apple’s iPad. The article is worth quoting at length.

Today Amazon agreed to a no-bid, $16.5 million contract with the U.S. State Department to provide 2,500 Kindle Touches for the government’s overseas language-education programs.

The document released today identifies the State Department’s need for a program that provides “a secure, centrally managed content distribution and management platform to centrally manage an unlimited number of e-reader/tablet devices.” and unfortunately Apple’s iPad falls short of this requirement, according to the State Department. But that isn’t the only factor.

“The additional features [of the iPad] are not only unnecessary, but also present unacceptable security and usability risks for the government’s needs in this particular project,” the State Department document says. “Critically, the Apple iPad falls short on two requirements: the centrally managed platform for registration and content delivery, and battery life.”

According to the State Department, the Kindle not only surpasses these requirements, but also has international 3G capabilities, text-to-speech features and an extended battery life. These features alone were enough for a $16.5 million contract. With its deal, the State Department can purchase more than 2,500 Kindles over the next five years. This leaves Amazon the job of shipping these devices overseas, as well as teaching the specifics on how to access content while providing 24/7 customer service.

Amazon is also responsible for disabling “certain standard features for the e-Reader.”

The notion that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will sweep all models before it, with users choosing their own consumer class devices, and IT following along behind to support user choices, is now received wisdom in the industry. Most of the chatter so far has compared Apple and Android security, app and permission models. But perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of a Not Your Own Device backlash.

But it may be that the Kindle has a distinct advantage over its multifunction peers – it is precisely the lack of functionality that won Amazon this State Department deal. Governments of course tend to be aggressively conservative – I think we can expect other Departments to follow suit.

I have written before about Amazon winning Simple in the cloud market. Well now it has a similar play to make in mobile. This is an example of Weakness as Strength. Low cost bandwidth, super long battery life, what’s not to like? Also note the last line, where Amazon has made concessions to enterprise security- enterprise IT folks *love* vendor concessions…

People love to say how awesome and simple Apple keeps thing. Not as simple as the Kindle… Please let me know if you come across any other organisations making the Kindle choice.









  1. You don’t think that the nature of the client makes it a little different than most corporations? Also, what the flipping heck, $6,600 per device for 5 years of support? It retails for $140!

    Something is not being said about this contract.

    1. Hey Danno. Of course the state department is different from many organisations, and after the wikileaks thing (which i should perhaps have mentioned in the post) its particularly sensitive in terms of information management. But the functions the Kindle does have are likely to be useful for many types of firms. In terms of numbers you also raise a good point. enterprise support is generally expensive.

      1. You’re right on all those points, but I guess a small part of me holds out a fleeting hope that the US government could figure out a slightly more cost effective way to deliver tablets for language education and that what looks like massive pork like this is actually a front for something else.

  2. […] NYOD. Amazon as enterprise mobility vendor. Or How much functionality is too much functionality? Link – Trackbacks Posted in User experience (UX) | Permalink. ← JavaScript Profiling […]

  3. NYOD is naive — the State Department specializes in naivety.

    Like locks on doors NYOD might keep “mostly honest” people honest but it does little to protect State secrets from more determined individuals. E.g. a simple camera circumvents restrictions on copy/paste and downloading.

    NYOD won’t supplant BYOD…it’ll be forced to coexist with it.

  4. […] NYOD. Amazon as enterprise mobility vendor. Or How much functionality is too much functionality? http://redmonk.com/jgovernor/2012/06/12/kindle-simple-beats-ipad-at-state-department-nyod-amazon-as-… – “perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of a Not Your Own Device […]

  5. Not only did Apple loose,but the State Department took the time to go through a sole source justification. In this day and age, that’s very difficult especially at this dollar amount…

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