Pentagon sees further use of BlackBerry as door opens to others

Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:52pm EDT
 
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WASHINGTON Oct 31 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Wednesday said it would continue to support "large numbers" of BlackBerry phones made by Research in Motion Ltd even as it moves forward with plans that would allow the U.S. military to begin using Apple Inc's iPhone and other devices.

The U.S. Defense Department last week invited companies to submit bids for software that can monitor, manage and enforce security requirements for devices made by Apple and Google Inc , with an eye to awarding a contract in April.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) quietly posted its request for proposals on a federal website on Oct. 22, the same day that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency said it would end its contract with RIM in favor of Apple's iPhone.

Losing some of its Pentagon business to other providers could deal another blow to RIM, which once commanded the lead in the smartphone market but has rapidly lost ground to Apple and Samsung's line of products as customers abandon its aging BlackBerry devices.

For many years, the Pentagon relied solely on BlackBerry phones because RIM met its tough security requirements, but other companies have been improving security on their devices, and a growing number of military commanders are clamoring for rival devices with bigger touch screens and faster browsers.

A Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military was working toward allowing vendors to supply other smartphones, while maintaining strict security requirements.

He said the department aimed to use commercial mobile technologies as it stepped up the use of "new and innovative applications" to support the military's evolving requirements.

But the Pentagon also stressed it was not moving away from its use of BlackBerry phones.

"DISA 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," the spokesman said.   Continued...