Defense Department Drops Exclusive BlackBerry Contract

Apple and Google outpaces Research In Motion among consumers, and now the BlackBerry maker even has to compete for the Pentagon's business.

For years, it seemed like the federal government and the BlackBerry went hand in hand. But that partnership is starting to come apart.

Think your organization might follow suit?

As we reported last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made an organizational switch to the iPhone, claiming it would allow its workers “to leverage reliable, mobile technology on a secure and manageable platform.”

But now comes a bigger blow: The Department of Defense, which has long had an exclusive contract with Research In Motion (RIM) for BlackBerry devices, has made room for government contract proposals from Apple and Google.

While RIM could still win a six-month contract with the Pentagon, this announcement comes at a particularly bad time for the company, whose devices have been outpaced by iPhone and Android phones both technologically and in terms of consumer market share.

We are confident that BlackBerry is, and will continue to be, the best solution for government agencies.

The Defense Department emphasizes that, no matter what happens, the BlackBerry will still play a large role for the organization.

“[Defense Information Systems Agency] is managing an enterprise email capability that continues to support large numbers of RIM devices while moving forward with the department’s planned mobile management capability that will support a variety of mobility devices,” a Pentagon spokesman told Reuters.

The federal government has traditionally been one of the the company’s strongest markets for a key reason — it met the military’s tough security requirements. But smartphones from other vendors have started to catch up on this front, and employees are clamoring for a wider variety of phone options.

For what it’s worth, RIM is feeling good about its chances.

“We are confident that BlackBerry is, and will continue to be, the best solution for government agencies,” Paul Lucier, RIM’s vice president of government solutions, told CNET. “BlackBerry brings unparalleled real-time mobile access to police forces and the military to ensure public safety. It has proven time again to be the most available and reliable communications channel during natural disasters and for first responders. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on BlackBerry security for secure, mobile transmission of confidential information.”

Still giving BlackBerry devices to your employees? Have your eye on something else? Let us know in the comments.

(photo by lilivanili/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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