The U.S. government will be moving some of its workers to Apple devices and Google’s Gmail from BlackBerrys and Exchange mail, pulling the rug out from under Research in Motion at a time when it is scrambling for cover.
Employees in the ATF, Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress, the State Department, among other agencies, are being given the option of use iPhones, iPads and sometimes Android devices, instead of the formerly-mandated BlackBerry units.
Federal CTO Vivek Kundra said the program is based on a similar strategy in private sectors where workers get to pick their devices and then equip them to meet security standards. Kundra admitted that he carried two devices — a BlackBerry out of necessity and iPhone out of desire — and this new program will allow him, and other federal workers, to consolidate their gadgets.
The new policy, nicknamed “federal government 2.0,” allows workers more say in the smartphones they use for their jobs, which are increasingly not RIM’s BlackBerry devices. This is a critical blow to the company after losing consumers in recent months and trying to hold onto corporate and government contracts.
The federal initiative comes on the heels of a test at Deutsche Bank that allowed employees to access work e-mails on their iPhones and Android devices.
RIM, the gold standard, de facto device in D.C. for years, is certain to lose out in this transition, and early indications are that Apple will be the big winner.
Currently, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple only supplies about 50 iOS devices to the ATF, but that number is expected to double, due in part to the iPad’s popularity in viewing surveillance video.
In addition, officials are permitting and testing iPads and iPhones in many departments to see if they are a better fit, and 30 percent of workers in the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are predicted to move to iPhones or Android devices.
The gain for Apple is not only a win for the iPhone, but also the iPad, and illustrates the RIM PlayBook’s inability so far to get traction in the competitive tablet market.
President Obama, often seen with his BlackBerry clipped to his waistband was also spotted frequently holding an iPad under his arm or on his desk. If the Commander-In-Chief decided to ditch his RIM smartphone in favor of another device, as many are now speculating, it would be a symbolic blow to the beleaguered BlackBerry.