The move is a blow to Research In Motion (RIM), which is facing increased competition from Apple iOS and Android-based devices in a government market it historically has dominated. A RIM executive told InformationWeek just last week that the company's government business remains strong and continues to grow despite there being more players in the field.
NOAA is making the switch for economic purposes, with iPhones being a less-expensive option for its personnel, said David Miller with NOAA in an interview Friday. The agency hopes to make the change sometime in early June, he added.
[ The feds are looking at ways to make commercial devices more secure. See National Security Agency Plans Smartphone Adoption. ]
Miller said he could not confirm the number of iPhones that will be purchased nor how they will be procured, but said that according to NOAA CIO Joe Klimavicz, there are about 3,000 BlackBerrys in use at the agency, which has about 13,000 personnel and 7,000 contractors.
Once iPhones are in use, NOAA will use the mobile device management feature of Google Apps to secure and manage then, Miller added.
While NOAA appears to be making a clean break directly from BlackBerrys to iPhones, there are a number of other agencies that have chosen to make a more gradual transition away from the feds' previous mobile device of choice.
For example, most Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives employees currently use BlackBerrys, but within the next three to six months, the agency will begin transitioning its 2,400 special agents to other smartphone platforms.
Other federal departments--such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense--also have given the nod to Android and iOS devices, but are not dumping currently used mobile devices full stop.
A new government trend to allow personnel to use their own devices at work also could work against RIM, as BlackBerry has been losing share to other smartphones in the consumer market. A recent report by CDW Government found that 62% of federal agencies now have a bring your own device policy, and 44% of employees are using it.
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