Pentagon drops RIM exclusivity; eyes up iPhones, Android phones

Summary:RIM has lost yet another exclusive major government client: this time around it's the U.S. Department of Defense that is looking to pitch iPhones to its employee base, dropping the previously favored BlackBerry.

Another day, another government or enterprise contract lost for the beleaguered BlackBerry maker, Research in Motion.

On the same day the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, a division of the U.S. Homeland Security, said it was looking to ditch the BlackBerry smartphone from its employees hands in favor of Apple's iPhone, the Pentagon had similar plans and quietly issued their warning to the Canadian smartphone maker.

According to Reuters, the Pentagon last week quietly invited companies to submit software proposals to "monitor, manage and enforce security requirements for devices made by Apple and Google," in the hope of supporting devices come April.

The U.S. Department of Defense said on Wednesday that while it will continue to support "large numbers" of the BlackBerry smartphones, the government agency will move forward with plans to support the Apple smartphone among others in the U.S. military.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) said the defense division was looking to manage at least 162,500 devices at the beginning, but that figure could grow to 262,500 by the end of the contract. Ultimately, the Pentagon wants the management software to support up to 8 million devices.

It's another major blow to RIM as the firm has yet to release the next range of BlackBerry 10 smartphones, pegged for a late first-quarter release. BlackBerrys remain in favor for government use thanks to the secure military-grade security and back-end encryption.

The Pentagon said it will retain BlackBerrys in its department for some secure communications. While Apple and Google are open to submit proposals to support their iOS and Android powered devices respectively, RIM could still be awarded the contract, sister site CNET reports. Rival firms continue to work towards government certification to prove that their devices can be managed in a secure enterprise environment and used for official government communications.

"We are confident that BlackBerry is, and will continue to be, the best solution for government agencies," a RIM spokesperson told CNET.

Topics: BlackBerry, Enterprise Software, Government : US, Smartphones

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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