Pentagon Denies Scrapping BlackBerry

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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The US military is moving to use a wider variety of smartphone platforms, but will continue using BlackBerry, officials have confirmed

US Department of Defence officials have denied that they are scrapping support for the BlackBerry platform. Instead, they’re moving to support a mixed environment of devices.

“The department is aware of recent reporting that asserts it is dropping BlackBerry. This reporting is in error,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesperson for the DoD, told PC Mag.

Variety of devices

“The department recently released its mobility strategy and supporting implementation plan,” Pickart continued, “which clarifies we are moving towards a mobile management capability that supports a variety of devices, to include BlackBerry.”

BlackBerry LogoTech site Electronista earlier reported that the government sequester was holding up an order for 120,000 Apple iPads, 100,000 iPad minis, 200,000 iPod touches and 210,000 iPhones.

It also reported on 7 March that the sequester was forcing the DoD to make a mandatory 11 percent cut, and so it was scrapping a new programme to pilot the BlackBerry Z10 – Blackberry’s slow-to-arrive smartphone that is the first to run the company’s new BlackBerry 10 software. Sources, said the site, described the programme as “low-hanging fruit” and “easy to cut”.

“We’re almost done with the iOS and Android platform testing procedure, so that’s fine,” the source added. “BlackBerry is going to have to suck it up and not get properly tested for a while. Maybe never.”

Commercial technology

The DoD’s official plan, Pickart told PC Mag, “is to establish a department-wide mobile enterprise solution that permits the use of the latest commercial technology, such as smartphones and tablets, and the development of an enterprise mobile device management capability and application store to support approximately 100,000 multivendor devices by February 2014.”

BlackBerry, responding to the Electronista reports, said in a statement: “Our work with the US Department of Defence is going well and the US Department of Defence is moving forward with testing of BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 and the new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone. We are currently working with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and anticipate Security Technical Implementation Guides (STIG) and Security Requirement Guide (SRG) approval for the BlackBerry Device Service, BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry PlayBook by early April. BlackBerry was the first to go through the new SRG process by the Defence Department and will be the first to successfully come out of it.”

The DoD’s support is no doubt highly important to BlackBerry, which ahead of BlackBerry 10’s delayed release saw several key customers, even in regulated industries, defect to competitors.

With BlackBerry 10, the Z10, and a Q10 smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard that will arrive later this year, the company is in the process of clawing its way back uphill. Once a smartphone market leader, it now holds about a 3 percent share of the global market, to Android’s 70 percent.

Worldwide, the BlackBerry Z10 has seen better-than-expected sales, according to chief executive Thorsten Heins.

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Originally published on eWeek.