California state agencies have spent $423,000 on iPads

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The state of California has spent $423,000 on iPads over the past 19 months, generating outrage by one rural assembly member who didn't realize the device is actually cheaper than the laptops it replaces.

California has struggled to control government spending, with Governor Jerry Brown having made headlines over order that took away cars and mobile phones from government employees. But the state's efforts to appear austere in its expenditures has inflamed reactions to a provocative report that points out that its government agencies are still buying iPads at a regular clip.

A report by San Francisco Chronicle populist investigators Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, who regularly dig up controversy, notes that nearly more than half of the iPads bought by California were purchased "from agencies that report to the governor."

The duo stated that the Department of Veteran Affairs spent $95,000 on 127 iPads, while the Department of Water Resources paid $65,416 for around 62, the Department of General Services paid $33,539 for 66 iPads and highway agency Caltrans spent $33,539 on around 30.

After the state's Department of Motor Vehicles bought more than two dozen iPads, Matier and Ross complained to the governor, who in turn ordered that the DMV return 11, including one that had been given to the agency's director George Valverde.

Matier and Ross even found an upset assembly woman from rural Tulare willing to complain about iPads publicly. According to Connie Conway, the purchase of iPads under the governor's administration is "just the kind of double standard that outrages taxpaying citizens and explains why they don't trust us."

Matier and Ross subsequently asked the governors' press secretary Gil Duran if iPads were "little more than a luxury that sends the wrong message during hard times." The two didn't mention how much in taxes California collects from Apple, now the most valuable public company to have ever existed.

In reply, Duran informed Matier and Ross that a variety of iPads purchased for use by doctors and engineers at the VA and Caltrans are being used to replace more expensive laptops, before adding, "everyone who has one in the governor's office paid for it personally."

Other agencies, such as the Department of Insurance, have paid out about $31,000 for 31 iPads "funded largely through fees and assessments on the insurance industry," with Apple's iPad being part of a pilot program to increase efficiency and support the agency's green/paperless initiatives.

Government loves the iPad, too

Apple has marketed its iPad most directly to consumers, but it has proven to be a tremendous hit within the enterprise, both by private corporations and government agencies.

In February, just after the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced plans to switch from RIM's Blackberry to Apple's iPhone and iPad, the U.S. federal General Services Administration added Apple's iOS devices to its approved purchasing list across the agencies for which it manages $70 billion in spending.

A month later, the The U.S. Air Force awarded a $9.36 million contract to buy up to 18,000 iPads for use as electronic flight bags, which commercial airlines have already adopted as a way to improve efficiency and even reduce fuel costs.

President Obama shown with an iPad 2. Photo via The White House.

The iPhone and iPad have since muscled past the once entrenched position of Canadian RIM's Blackberry throughout the U.S. in both federal and state government, with one report noting, "even President Obama, a BlackBerry devotee, has upgraded. He now owns an iPad, and it has been seen on his desk and under his arm."

Government spending has become so important for Apple that when it realized that backing out of the EPEAT program would trigger automatic barriers to adoption among agencies that require buyers to select EPEAT-listed devices, it acknowledged the decision was a "mistake" and reverted it the next week.