U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is rolling out a pilot program in January to test Research In Motion's upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform despite its announcement in October that it was ditching its BlackBerrys for Apple's iPhones.
Barbara Gonzalez, press secretary for ICE, said the agency's BlackBerry 10 pilot program does not necessarily mean the company is reversing its October decision to transition 17,600 of employees from BlackBerrys to Apple's iPhone. Gonzalez said the ICE isn't "backing away" from either iOS or BlackBerry. "We have a long relationship with RIM and we plan to continue that," Gonzalez said, explaining that ICE is looking to develop new mobile apps for law enforcement and is evaluating how BlackBerry 10 could provide a platform for those apps.
The ICE pilot program could represent a bright spot for RIM, which has lost much of its government and enterprise market share to smartphone rivals Apple and Google over the past few years. According to Gartner, RIM's BlackBerry platform in the third quarter accounted for 5.3 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, a figure that was trumped by Google's Android 72.4 percent and Apple iOS' 13.9 percent.
RIM is banking heavily on BlackBerry 10, its next-generation mobile software, slated to launch on Jan. 30, to reverse its downward spiral and regain some of the ground it has ceded to Apple and Google. The new OS also will usher in a new generation of BlackBerry handsets, including fully touch-enabled devices and those including RIM's signature QWERTY keyboard.
According to RIM, BlackBerry 10 will tout a number of enterprise- and government-specific features poised to make the platform a hit with agencies like ICE.
"ICE has been a valued BlackBerry customer for years, and our commitment to government agencies has influenced the development of the BlackBerry 10 platform," said Scott Totzke, senior vice president of BlackBerry security at RIM, in a statement. "Along with providing workers with secure access to behind-the-firewall confidential information, BlackBerry 10 can help organizations fully leverage the potential of mobile technology to offer new services, improve service delivery and increase organizational productivity."
In November, another government agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, said it was exploring a transition from BlackBerrys to Apple's iPhones, explaining in a solicitation document that the BlackBerrys had "been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate." The agency said it was looking specifically to switch to the new iPhone 5.
PUBLISHED DEC. 13, 2012