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Government PCs: An Introduction Those government offices who prefer to purchase through General Services Administration (GSA) often go through the so-called Schedule 70, which offers a variety of multi-vendor solutions. Over 340 different providers currently offer some type of desktop computer via the GSA schedule.


History of PCs in Government

Huge mainframe systems had their birth in government offices in the mid 1940s. The spark of an idea for small desktop computers can actually be traced back to 1947, when the miniaturization of electronic circuits became possible with the invention of the transistor. Once the transistor appeared, many engineers realized that development of small, reliable, and affordable computers might be possible, but an affordable desktop computer was still decades away.

By 1975 the federal government has started using a few Altair computers, one of the first small systems developed as all-in-one computing systems. later that year IBM starts shipping its 5100 Portable Computer, a briefcase-size minicomputer with BASIC. But the use of these systems is not wide-spread in the federal government. Most agencies continue their preference for mainframe systems.

By the late 1970s, Apple computers, Tandy computers and several other personal computer systems have arrived. They first make their way into government offices as discreet systems that are used for correspondence and spreadsheets. Even though the internet was developed with Defense Department and academic involvement several years earlier, it would be several more years before personal computers became a key part of Internet connectivity.

The early 1980s brought age of the departmental computer system and the late 1980s and early 1990s saw the growth of the desktop client and the client server revolution. By this time government offices realized that the needed to network their stand alone systems, including the specialty PC systems they'd been purchasing. While so-called dumb terminals remained popular in government offices (as the main interfaces into mainframe systems) by 1990, there was a clear preference for desktop pcs in most government offices. The numbers of PCs purchased by the government has continued to climb each year since then, especially as prices have fallen.

Today the federal government purchases tens of thousands of personal computers each year. current trends show a preference for laptop systems when possible. But there is no evidence of the federal government embarking on a quick upgrade to vista, Microsoft's newest operating system. In fact, some agencies have told their IT departments to hold off on migrating to Vista until there is a significant business reason to do so. [1]

Current Situation

Several agencies are working to establish a standard configuration for Windows desktop and notebook PCs. The Office of Management and Budget is helping to drive this effort. By preloading specific secure configurations of Windows software or other operating systems on desktops helps agencies control security and manage client systems in a standardized way.

For government agency help desks, establishing common hardware and software platform helps them provide a more reliable computing environment, and administrators can coordinate patches and software updates in a common way.

OMB says that federal agencies have to submit plans for the development and deployment of standard configurations by May 1 2007. Implement is expected by February 2008.

Most Common Procurement Methods

GSA - Schedule 70, Category 132 8 (Desktop computers and several other types of hardware).

SEWP - originally the Scientific and Engineering Workstation procurement, and now (in its fourth version) called the Solutions for Enterprisewide Procurement, SEWP is coordinated by NASA, but it is a large multi-agency procurement program that provides competitive pricing for high-end computer systems. [href="http://www.sewp.nasa.gov/">SEWP IV] now offers computer systems and servers, network equipment and storage devices.

ECS III - The Electronic Commodity Store III ECSIII offers computer hardware and software that allows government users the ability to configure systems for their specific needs. Hardware, software, maintenance, training, and documentation are available. The ECS III also provides network equipment and accessories. In addition, it provides UNIX-based workstations and support equipment to meet a broad range of computational requirements.

Meanwhile, many government PCs are purchased through large integration contracts, where an IT service provider is hired to upgrade hundreds of PCs along with a major network or applications upgrade. These are some of the largest bulk purchases of PCs by the government, and such arrangements stress the growing importance of systems integrators as a major sales channel for government PC vendors.

Vendors or government procurement managers: Please feel free to list additional programs here. Just hit the edit link.

Vendor-specific PC News


The federal government's appetite for personal computers is not expected to wane anytime soon. There is likely to be continued interest in laptop computers and also growth in specialty handheld PCs.

One wild card is a small renewed interest in so-called thin client systems, which offer much of the functionality of a PC, but with most of the applications and management residing on a central server.

Looming federal requirement for PCs: See details on the <a href="Federal Desktop Core Configuration">Federal Desktop Core Configuration</a> (FDCC). It will affect Windows XP and Vista computers, starting in February, 2008.

PC-related News

  • <a href="PC-related Stories from PCWorld magazine">PC-related Stories from PCWorld magazine</a>
  • <a href="PC news from PC Magazine">PC news from PC Magazine</a>
  • <a href="Reviews of affordable laptop and notebook computers from PC Magazine">Reviews of affordable laptop and notebook computers from PC Magazine</a>
  • <a href="Reviews of laptops and notebooks from cNet">Reviews of laptops and notebooks from cNet</a>
  • <a href="Reviews of desktop computers from cNet">Reviews of desktop computers from cNet</a>
  • <a href="Tech news from cNet">Tech news from cNet</a>
  • <a href="Latest Channel Insider news articles">Latest Channel Insider news articles</a>
  • <a href="PC-related Stories from PCWorld magazine">PC-related Stories from PCWorld magazine</a>
  • <a href="PC and Workstation News">PC and Workstation News</a> - Europe focus


[1] Government Computer News article <a href="http://www.gcn.com/print/26_06/43307-1.html">On Vista, feds wait and see</a>

<a href="Category:PCs">Category:PCs</a>

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