Thursday, July 13, 2006

RDNS Open Tender for 1,000 Tablet PCs

It's been twelve days since my last blog post and some of you have been wondering where I've been (thanks for the emails); I guess 1,000 Tablets will do that to me...allow me to explain. I've been caught up helping with a proposal for the supply of 1,000 Tablet PCs to the Royal Districts Nursing Society, based in Melbourne. The Tender closed two days ago and took up most of my spare time.

The Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) is a not-for-profit organisation and is the oldest and most respected provider of home nursing and healthcare services in Australia, delivering nursing care to people in their homes, schools and workplaces 24 hours a day 365 days of the year. As part of the Mobile Computer Device Refresh Program 2006 RDNS recently asked interested parties to attend a Respondent’s Briefing; with the Tender having been advertised on the RDNS website, TenderSearch and TenderLink the turn out was always going to attract attention. The documentation was lengthy and looked as though it had been handled by more than one lawyer before reaching the respondents. An excerpt from the document reads: “RDNS has 850 mobile tablets and 110 compact notebooks requiring refresh. A desirable consideration of this refresh is to consolidate the tablet and notebook users onto the one device, on the basis that a cost effective tablet/notebook solution is achievable.” You may read the entire 52 pages here.

Th outgoing fleet of RDNS Tablet PCs is comprised of two models, the HP TC1100 and the TC1000. With HP’s decision to discontinue this range it would mean that the TCXXXX hybrid feature, i.e. Convertible Tablet and Slate ability, would prove difficult to replace. However after having read through the 52 page “Request for Tender” document it would seem that narrowing down the choice might not be so difficult. With mandatory requirements such as PCMCIA, Tablet Operating System, 1.6GHz Processors or above and 2 GB of RAM, it was very evident just how much thought RDNS had put into the tender request.

After an embarrassing technical hiccup, causing one attendee to yell out “I think you need some new notebooks”, the Melbourne Respondent’s Briefing was on its way. Held on Tuesday 4th of July at the RDNS HQ the briefing proved to be a real who’s who of the Tablet space; especially when you consider that the refresh would involve the supply of almost 1,000 Tablets. Attendees incorporated the obvious Fujitsu and Toshiba, with other hopefuls such as Motion Tablet PC and Tablet Kiosk also making their presence felt.

The briefing was designed to clarify issues that needed resolving: of which overheating, a suitable compendium cover and breakages in the AC port all required attention. It was interesting to note that RDNS would favour a fare-play policy that covered accidental breakages. In their eyes fare-play meant that a “no questions asked” and “quick turn around” policy would be looked well upon by the RDNS Tender Committee. One key feature that seemed to catch several of the respondents off guard was talk of a “User Engagement Workshop” (UEW). The UEW would see the designated supplier of these devices also provide an in-depth training and support program; the type of training was left fairly open but suggestions seemed to point towards databases of “Macromedia flash movies” and the use face-to-face rollouts that empowered the RDNS employees.

After the briefing one of the respondent’s, Anvantec’s Stuart Charlton, who has put together a primarily Slate oriented proposal involving the Sahara Slate PC, seemed confident and excited about the prospect of supplying so many Tablets at once. Being Distributed in Australia by Tablet PC Distributor, Tegatech Australia, the Sahara slate is seen as a fairly vertical market product so when asked about his chances Charlton was heard to say “I think we’ve got a good chance. The product is lighter than most and feels good in your hands. I think we’re on a winner.”

No matter what happens the RDNS Tender has sparked a real wave of enthusiasm in the Australian Tablet PC space. Whatever market you are in, if the chance comes to supply a Company over 1,000 Tablet PCs in a single concurrent sale, surely there will be players fighting tooth and nail to make a great impression. With the closing date of the 13th of July” now having past respondents must now wait in bated breath. Short listed evaluation units are required for August and the intended rollout is shooting for an October/November 2006 schedule.

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