Monday, February 22, 2016

$3000 Laptop Computers?

Here’s an acquisition item I can’t quite believe.  From the contract award site,

“OSI Federal Technologies Inc.,* Aldie, Virginia, is being awarded a $7,897,437 fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of a minimum quantity of 750 to a maximum quantity of 2,605 commercially available laptop computers that serve as mission planning computers in the aircrafts deployed to the fleet.  In addition, this contract includes 100 to 248 spare hard drives; up to 88 docking stations; and 450 carrying cases. 

If I’m reading this right, that’s $7.9M for a maximum of 2605 commercially available laptops.  Commercially available means you or I could buy them.  If we do the math, we get a cost of $3031 per laptop.  I think we all know what laptops cost and it’s not $3031 each.  Yeah, there’s some miscellaneous hard drives and whatnot but those are minuscule costs.  

I’m not sure I could find a $3000 laptop even if I wanted one.  It’s hard to believe they even sell them – nobody would buy one.

It's a fixed price contract.  What if the government only buys the low end of 750?

Something’s wrong with this.


  1. Actually, that's about right for a Panasonic Toughbook. It's a ruggedized laptop commonly used by powertrain calibrators in the automotive industry as well by many police forces.

    1. Well, that's a new one on me!

      I see Amazon has the Panasonic CF-21 (Mil-Spec certified) for $1900 and I gotta believe that buying 2600 would earn a bit of discount on top of that. It looks like the military is still overpaying!

  2. Here is a link at
    It shows a Panasonic Toughbook 31 CF-3114631CM 13.1" Touchscreen (CircuLumin) Notebook - Intel Core i5 i5-5300U Dual-core (2 Core) 2.30 GHz. Price is: $4002.46. New Egg is known for good buys and great prices so the government may have gotten a discount.

    1. Amazon has the CF-31 for $2888. Again, that's without a discount for buying 2600.

      You gotta wonder if this is overuse of Mil-Spec. You can buy Dell laptops for a few hundred dollars. Sure, some will break but you can buy ten for every one Mil-Spec. Gotta wonder.

    2. Depends on the specific config. They can increase in cost substantially. The specific configuration they are using likely has both SSDs, the extended battery, GPS receiver, and possibly 4G LTE. The CF-31s go upwards of ~8k in MSRP.

      Also the one you see at amazon is a much older model, fyi.

      I know a guy who actually travels with an $8k Toughbook. He travels around the world effectively building construction machines (the ones that are so big they basically have to assemble them on site, aka their buckets/blades are as big as houses) and having seen what his toughbook looks like, he's probably saved at least 20k in laptops because of it.

      Most of the el cheapo laptops are pretty much only good if you are only ever sitting at a desk with them plugged in. Hell even for a corp laptop that actually works and works throughout the day, you are generally looking at ~2k per. Once you have a decent display, SSD, actual battery life, etc, they get pretty expensive. I've seen biz trying to use the el cheapo laptops and they end up getting trashed pretty quickly or being almost unusable.

      TL;DR: you are talking about an item with upwards of a 8k MSRP, 3K is pretty decent as far as discounts go.

  3. thats crazy talk, really. You're thinking very march of an arm chair user, who has 10 disposable 'i dont give a crap about these things, one breaks i use another'.
    Instead, its a military application. Which means, as near as makes no difference to 'never break'. It needs to work, all the time, every time, cause when it doesnt, lets just say your apple genius bar isn't around the corner to restore your lost data, and repair your broken drive, or restore your backup onto the new computer, mid battle, or manoeuvres. Radio shack aint around the corner, and even if they were, none of the employees would have the clearance to see whats on your laptop.
    A lot of the stuff you post up is reasonable, but its stuff like this.... lets just say it doesnt help your cause.

    1. Commercially available....

      IE, not "Underwater Knife Fighter" model

    2. Nate, you can make your point politely and respectfully.

  4. Not that surprising, most business IT easily costs 170% what you could buy from a shop next door, it usually comes with a support contract included, but said contract is so expensive I've never gotten anyone to justify it financially, and I've demanded they do.

    1. Yes and no, I'm a sys admin, for a medium sized firm, i can tell you, that it all depends on context. When you have consultants bringing in large sums of money per billable hour, you need to minimise down time, and part of that, is a high cost service environment, yes, its far more expensive than a ma and pa computer repair shop, but, its immediate, no hassle, replace on the spot, fix on the spot. Obviously, we're talking about a high maintenance environment, computers/databases/etc are highly complex and need constant maintenance. Hence, expensive support contracts.
      Military applications are one step above this. And planes a step above that. They need to run on a never-fail design. When that involves computers, you're talking about an enormous amount of redundancies, both in raw computing power, OS, connectivity pathways, etc, etc, etc. Which is why you can have a computer in your car which only cost Ford $1000 but something only a little more complex on a crappy private plane runs to the millions.

      So yes, for your small business thats self contained, cheaper less flexible support contracts are more cost effective. For larger firms, with different needs and different margins, the dynamic changes. DOD is on the very very extreme end of that spectrum. Being the worlds largest single employer.

    2. Let's not lose sight of the subject. No one disputes that the military would need highly reliable and rugged computers to actually go inside aircraft or, to a certain extent, on ships. Those are worth a hefty premium. However, we're talking about simple, if ruggedized, laptops for doing mission planning software work according to the contract announcement. There's nothing special about the laptop other than being rugged and my question is why the laptops need to be $3000. We can buy several Dells for the price of one of these. No realistic failure rate would seem able to justify that kind of price differential. The software can run on any computer. If a $300 Dell breaks, toss it in the garbage and pull another one out of storage. No maintenance needed.

      I suspect that if the military were civilian industry, the mission planning software would be reduced to an app on an IPad!

    3. Im not saying that under ideal scenarios you're right, but large organisations simply can't buy 25% quantity at spec x for users of level competency x, 50% at spec x+5 for users of competency levels of x-20 and 25% of hardware at spec x+50 for users of competency x-95%.

      Even in my industry, where every one has a university degree, at least 10% of staff are complete imbeciles and can be relied upon in 100% of circumstances to break the computer they've got, destroy the database theyre working in, ruin the presentation that was created for them because theyre imbeciles and can't be trusted.
      The DOD is buying 1 spec, that must cover the lowest common denominator. Assume the dumbest private will need to operate it, buy accordingly.
      The other end of it is, maintenance. Back to the MaCnamara thinking. If you only buy 1 model, you only need to train staff to use the 1 model, only need to certify technicians on maintenance/repair of 1 model. things like that, add up far far faster than the actual hardware cost.

      Im not saying accountability isn't a good thing. It is, its the cornerstone of weeding out corruption. So should be pursued at every opportunity.

      Just saying, this doesnt look like a case of over spending.

  5. Yer. I used to work with an armoured hp laptop.

    Accidentally ran over it one day ( dont ask )

    It was fine. And that was civi commercially available.

    6 weeks later tipped tea in it. It shut down. I washed it in clean water dried it for a day. And would you believe it. Fine again !

    Well worth it.

    1. I've seen doh boys use one to hammer home the pegs while erecting their tent, only to then open it, and start emailing....

      Sigh. This is why it costs $3000 to have $300 nice things.

  6. These are very interesting figures.

    There are of course laptops that reach that price, but I think you're right in suggesting that the average man on the street would grimace at the price tag and find something cheaper.

    This expense could be considered acceptable, as long as this is hardware that will last years and not an annual expenditure.

    Raymond @ CKS Global Solutions LTD

  7. Also agree with you on that, finding a $3000 laptop is not easy. There must be something wrong there. Military seems to be overpaying for what they are getting. Military Spec will be important for those laptops but I am sure for such a large purchase they should get a decent discount.

    Brian Hopkins @ Micro Tips USA


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