Amazon announced today its free tool Whispercast for Kindle, which gives school and business administrators a way to deploy and manage content at scale on Kindle devices and Kindle reading apps on the iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, PCs, and Macs. Users typically download their own Kindle content. Now, administrators can deploy content to students and employees who are using a Kindle device.
IT should like Whispercast because it gives it a way to centrally manage Kindle devices. It also saves time registering Kindles, and setting up Internet access, and allows IT to block Facebook and Twitter and other functions on the Kindle, much like mobile device management (MDM) tools for smart phones and tablets. The Whispercast tool also allows for massive deployment of device settings including Wi-Fi network and proxy settings, password requirements, and device restrictions. That's on the management side.
Coming soon is a Bring Your Own Device program from Amazon. Previously the Kindle was designed and marketed purely as a consumer device, but Amazon is working to make it more amenable to business use. Obviously, having an enterprise play can bring in a lot more money when the devices are bought in bulk and content is sold at scale.
On the distribution side of things, Whispercast allows for content to be wirelessly purchased and distributed as Kindle books on a number of devices including the iPad, iPhone, and any Kindle device. It also can make it easy to send content to a specific grade level or send a document to a department within the company.
In addition, Whispercast supports distribution of applications from the Amazon App store for Android. The apps in the Apple App Store tend to rely on third-party vendors to manage the mobile devices or deploy enterprise applications at scale--usually at a cost, too. The iPad certainly paved the way for technology in the classroom and in businesses; however, with Amazon's move into the space, schools might find less-expensive Kindles preferable to iPads.
Amazon's focus at this point is the distribution of content, not apps. This probably means that the applications it envisions are technical manuals, marketing literature, and books that are required reading in classrooms. Clearwater High School was able to manage content for 2,000 individuals. Curtis Fundamental Elementary school in Florida used e-readers to distribute books to entire classrooms within minutes.
This seems to show that with devices so powerful, their eventual use in businesses can change a company's efforts to claim that they are consumer devices.
Besides educational uses, Amazon sees this as a chance to break into businesses and non-profit organizations. For instance, Worldreader used Whispercast to distribute 200,000 books to students in sub-Saharan Africa. With numbers like this, a tool like Whispercast might be what Amazon needs to whip past iPads as the dominant tool in classrooms.
Whispercast will work on Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets including Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Paperwhite 3G, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD 7", Kindle Fire HD 8.9", and Kindle Fire 8.9" 4G LTE, Kindle Keyboard 3G, and previous generations of Kindle.