Amazon's Whispercast to help schools, businesses centrally manage Kindle devices

The free service will help schools and businesses control and distribute content to the devices

Amazon.com has launched a free online tool that will help schools and businesses centrally control and distribute content on Kindle devices to their students and staff, it said Wednesday.

The new service, called Whispercast for Kindle, can also deliver e-books to other devices running a free Kindle app, including the iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, PCs and Macs, Amazon.com said.

With Whispercast, Amazon.com aims to boost adoption of Kindle devices and content in schools, businesses and nonprofit organizations. Using Kindle books, students no longer need to carry heavy textbooks, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Businesses will also be able to distribute documents and Kindle books to devices with access to free Kindle reading applications, thus supporting the trend for employees to bring their own devices to work. Personally owned Kindle devices will also be able to receive content soon through a feature called content gifting.

Some organizations have already tested the service. Worldreader, a nonprofit organization, is said to have has used Whispercast to wirelessly deliver over 200,000 e-books to children in sub-Saharan Africa.

A person at an organization will need to sign up for a Whispercast administrator account, which will be the only account authorized to buy Kindle content for devices on the organization's network. The administrator can select groups of users that should receive certain Kindle content, and can likewise assign documents uploaded by the organization to specific groups.

An organization can also control device settings on all of its Kindle devices at once, including the ability to configure wireless network settings such as proxy settings, require a password on the device, and block the web browser and features such as Facebook and Twitter integration.

Whispercast works with Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets, including the recently announced $69 Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Paperwhite 3G, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch and Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch 4G LTE, Amazon.com said. The remote configuration capabilities are however not available for the first generation of Kindle Fire or Kindle Touch.

The service will also support distribution of Kindle Fire applications in the coming months, the company said.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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