Hughes wins $171M patent office contract

The Patent and Trademark Office awarded Hughes Data Systems a contract for desktop computers late last month that could be worth as much as $171 million.

Under the contract Hughes will provide 120 MHz and 133 MHz Pentium-based PCs manufactured by Micron Electronics Inc. The company also will supply printers bar code readers and associated peripherals. And PTO soon may evoke the contract's technology upgrade clause a move that would upgrade the PCs to 200 MHz machines.

The desktop computer acquisition is the first PTO contract open to the entire government. Up to 20 percent of the contract's ceiling is available to other Commerce Department agencies and another 20 percent is available to other federal agencies.

As for PTO the new computers will allow agency employees to access image and text databases as well as business and office automation applications from their desktops. The agency also plans to migrate to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT at the desktop level.

The contract will allow the agency to replace its aging 386 486 and dumb terminals and Unix workstations over the next three years. About 44 percent of PTO employees have either 286 or 386 machines.

For about the past two years PTO has relied on the General Services Administration schedule as well as interim contracts awarded to Dynamic Decisions Inc. and most recently CSS Laboratory to tide it over until the new contract was awarded.

Dunn Computer Corp. was awarded the last full and open contract for desktops at PTO.In the not-too-distant past patent examiners had to share workstations running The Santa Cruz Operation Inc.'s SCO Unix.

"What we are doing is making all patent databases available through PTOnet " said Dennis Shaw chief information officer at PTO. "To do that we needed larger more capable workstations and we got it in this particular procurement."

Getting More for Less

Shaw noted that when PTO deployed its first-generation workstation in the late 1980s the systems cost around $9 000 apiece. Under the new contract PTO will acquire more powerful machines with 21-inch monitors that will cost in the neighborhood of $7 000.

But the contract will benefit all PTO employees not just patent examiners Shaw said.

"More than half of PTO employees spend four or more hours a day using their PC and over one-third spend five hours or more each day " Shaw said. "So it's critical to our business that we have very capable workstation equipment."

Price Flexibility

The contract also calls for quarterly price negotiations Shaw said which is a first for PTO. "It allows us to stay abreast of current technology and get it at reasonable prices " he said.

"This is the third major win for Hughes Data Systems " said David Shea a Hughes spokesman referring to the company's wins earlier this year on the Air Force's Desktop V and Air Force Workstations contracts. But Shea added that the PTO contract differs from those two deals in that the latest contract is a single-source award.

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