updated 05:00 pm EST, Fri March 2, 2012
USAF awards 9.36m contract for iPads
Despite talk that it had cancelled the deal, the US Air Force on Friday pledged itself to a contract to buy up to 18,000 iPads. Air Mobility Command has agreed to a $9.36 million pact that will see Executive Technology give C-5, C-17, C-130, KC-10, and KC-135 crews 32GB Wi-Fi iPads to use as replacements for their paper flight manuals and similar guides. Apple is supplying a volume discount that shaves the price down by $79 to $520.
The USAF has up to a year as of Thursday to buy the full amount of iPads. The order and the final contract price will depend on how many the military division clears for purchase. It's not known if Executive Technology will get a discount once the third-generation model is in shelves, although the 32GB iPad 2 is widely expected to disappear and would still make the price proportionate to the newness of the devices. A full two dozen companies had made bids that helped lower the price beyond what it might have been.
It's not known what had overcome early concerns about the key document reading app used in the deployment, GoodReader, having been developed in Russia.
A small 63-unit batch has already traded hands and should be in use within a month.
The deal is so far the largest for a government segment and a major coup for Apple, which has been scrambling to make sure that the iPad is the de facto tablet choice for corporate and government use. Most of its progress has been in the private sector, where the Fortune 500 uses iPads. Government use already exists but has usually been in small or otherwise experimental deployments.
The USAF's approach mimics that of airlines such as United. Although iPads require power and can become obsolete, they save a large amount of paper each year and are much easier to carry than stacks of books, the combination of which can cost the aircraft a small amount of fuel. Having iPads for documentation can also save time and shoulder strain for the crew. [via Bloomberg]