RIM Suffers Fresh Blow As US Government Moves Away From BlackBerry

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Government agency begins issuing iPhones and Android devices to some of its 17,000 employees

Research In Motion (RIM) has suffered yet another setback as the General Services Administration (GSA), the US government’s main procurement agency, announced its decision to provide iPhones and Android devices to its employees.

Though BlackBerrys will still be available from the agency, the announcement represents a general shift away from reliance on RIM products and a move towards a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy.

RIM edged out by rivals

“We actively seek to be progressive in our adoption of new technologies so that we can learn the lessons which will inform our client and customer agencies as they seek to go down a similar path,” the GSA’s chief information officer, Casey Coleman, told Reuters.

The government agency manages $500 billion (£319bn) worth of government assets including telecoms and IT, and employs BlackBerrys for their renowned security. Coleman notes that BlackBerrys account for more than 95 per cent of smartphones used at the GSA and that the agency intends to retain RIM’s data encryption services.

That high BlackBerry percentage is expected to decline, however, as the GSA tests its BYOD scheme, allowing employees to use their own devices on secure networks. This cost-cutting measure was also recently announced by Liam Maxwell, director of ICT Futures at the Cabinet Office, for parts of the UK government. Both BYOD initiatives will initially start on a small scale, but expectations will be that it will spread once security concerns are cleared by in-house authorities.

All of this is worrying news for RIM, which has had a torrid year globally. As well as their associated controversy in the aftermath of the London riots and censorship concerns dealing with the Indian government, other organisations and governments have been turning away from the BlackBerry manufacturer.

Reuters reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced it would be switching from RIM servers to cloud-based Google Apps for its operations, while Halliburton stated that it would ditch 4,500 BlackBerrys for iPhones, saying the latter was a better-suited device for its employees.

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