Apple May Gain as VA Seeks Security for 100,000 Devices

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is exploring security systems that would permit employees to use as many as 100,000 mobile devices, including Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad and phones using Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android, without endangering the privacy of sensitive information.

VA officials are researching “mobile device management” services that will protect e-mail and control access to agency computer networks for people using smartphones and tablet computers, according to a VA request for information issued last week and updated today.

“We want to make sure that veteran information is protected while still enabling productivity enhancing applications,” Roger Baker, the agency’s chief information officer, said in an e-mailed statement.

The VA’s decision may open a new market for Apple, which has until now lagged behind competitors Dell Inc. (DELL) and Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) in selling technology to the government. The VA is looking for technology that would allow its employees to use as many as 100,000 iPads and iPhones within 18 months, including a mix of government-owned and personal mobile devices, Jo Schuda, a VA spokeswoman, said in an e-mail today.

Enterprise Network

The request, previously reported by Nextgov.com, is a precursor to a formal bid solicitation. It specifies that the agency wants a secure connection for a range of operating systems, including Apple’s iOS, Android, and Windows phones, to its enterprise network.

The request is good news for Apple, said Dan Jacobs, chief executive officer of The Federal Market Group, a consulting company based in Warrenton, Virgina. "More people are using their iPads" as computers, he said.

Apple is seeking a security certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the agency that provides technology recommendations to the federal government. The institute certified RIM’s tablet computer, known as the PlayBook, on July 21, making it the first tablet device cleared by the agency. A decision on Apple’s iPad is pending, said Randy Easter, director of the cryptographic module validation program at NIST.

Cupertino, California-based Apple reported $65.2 billion in revenue for its fiscal year that ended Sept. 25, 2010.

Government Sales

Little of that comes from U.S. government business: In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2010, the latest fiscal year for which complete data are available, the federal government spent $50.8 million on Apple products, either directly or through resellers and integrators, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

By contrast, $1.9 billion of products made by Dell, a technology company with roughly the same revenue as Apple last year, were bought by the government that year. Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, reported revenue of $61.5 billion in the 12 months ending Jan. 28, 2011.

Research in Motion, based in Waterloo, Ontario, is the only smartphone maker whose products have received Pentagon security certification. The federal government bought $90.2 million worth of RIM products in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Miller in Washington at kmiller01@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.