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RIM Sees Continued BlackBerry Growth From Government Users

RIM hopes new government security certifications and a device management platform will bolster the platform's position against iOS, Android.

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Even as its market share in the U.S. business market slips, Research in Motion (RIM) said its BlackBerrys are holding steady in the government sector. The company hopes that new security certifications and a forthcoming management platform will help it maintain and even bolster that position.

RIM has certified its latest BlackBerry operating systems to federal security standards, and a company executive said Thursday they will continue do so. This certification ensures government agencies using the devices can upgrade to RIM's latest devices.

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded smartphones running on the new BlackBerry 7 and BlackBerry 7.1 operating systems FIPS 140-2 certification, the security requirement mandated by the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) standard for security in government agencies.

"[The federal government sector] continues to grow in terms of new subscriber acquisition as well as in the reinvestment/refresh business, or customers that are at the end of their contract upgrading to new BlackBerrys," said Scott Totzke, senior VP of BlackBerry security at RIM.

[ RIM's recent change in leadership isn't enough to save the company, say IT pros. See New CEO Won't Stop RIM's Bleeding: Exclusive Research. ]

While Tozke acknowledged increased competition from iPhones, iPads, and Android-based smartphones and tablets in the federal space as agencies increasingly adopt these devices, he said RIM is "holding our own" with the BlackBerry--once virtually the only mobile device approved to be in the hands of government employees.

He said RIM's federal business for BlackBerrys continues to have steady and incremental growth, but did not give specific numbers, saying the company does not break out its business by sector.

Still, RIM has recognized the diversification of devices in the government market, particularly in the federal sector, where the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs are among those that have approved iPhones, iPads, and Android-based devices for use.

To meet this challenge, RIM is entering a new space, that of mobile device management. In late March, the company will release BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, a secure mobile device management offering that will provide a single management console not only for BlackBerrys but also for devices based on Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

With the new product, RIM joins companies like MobileIron and Good Technology, which already have products in this space.

"One of the things we have done is listen to our customers," Tozke said. "As the mobile device landscape switches into smartphones/tablets and whatever else we're going to deploy, it will be very much a heterogeneous world. We will offer customers a way to manage that in a single environment."

RIM already has some beta customers for BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, but not in the federal sector, he said. However, there has been interest in the new product from government customers, Tozke added.

Find out how to create and implement a security program that will defend against malicious and inadvertent internal incidents and satisfy government and industry mandates in our Compliance From The Inside Out report. (Free registration required.)

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