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Federal Integrators: Pentagon's Approval Of Apple Is Trouble For BlackBerry

Apple products running the iOS 6 platform including the iPhone and iPad have recently been approved by the Pentagon for United States Military use, opening a new wave of opportunity for solution providers targeting Depart of Defense contracts.

Federal system integrators say the Pentagon's recent approval of Apple devices running the iOS 6 platform could give fits to the BlackBerry platform. Apple iPhones and iPads running a version of the iOS 6 mobile platform on May 17 joined the line-up of Pentagon-approved devices cleared as a secure platform for U.S. military use.

Harry Martin, president and chief executive officer of Intelligent Decisions, an Ashburn, Va.-based solutions provider to the United States federal government, called the Pentagon deal a "game changer" that means increased competition for the BlackBerry platform.

Until this month, BlackBerry was the military's mobile giant of choice, as it had received security clearance early on. As Apple and Android products rocketed in popularity in the consumer market, BlackBerry held on tightly to its foothold in the military, one of its largest customers. But, the Pentagon has now embarked on an effort to build a multi-vendor mobility strategy that includes consumer devices, according to a statement from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which is overseeing the Department of Defense's mobile strategy.

[Related: Apple Mobile Devices Cleared For Use On US Military Networks ]

BlackBerry devices are used by 470,000 Department of Defense employees compared with just 41,000 Apple iOS-based devices and just 8,700 Android systems, according to DISA. But now that Apple devices have been cleared for use on the Pentagon's secure networks, uptake by federal customers will likely be swift, Martin said.

"There are a zillion folks who use Apple devices," Martin said. "It's going to be natural for them to use those devices within the B2B and military communities."

The commonly used phrase "There's an app for that," referring to the limitless availability of mobile applications to accomplish nearly any task, is now going to be taken one step further. Targeting military personnel, application developers for the Apple platform have a whole new area in which to dabble.

Intelligent Decisions has already geared its application development center to begin developing applications fit for the military community, Intelligent Decisions' Martin said. Also an authorized Apple service center and supporter of numerous Apple contracts, Intelligent Decisions made heavy investments supporting Apple in anticipation that its devices would be accepted into the B2B and military arenas.

"We were relatively certain this day would come," Martin said. "You can believe that some phenomenal applications will be written on the Apple platform in the near future," Martin said.

NEXT: Approval Spells Opportunity For Solution Providers

PCM, an El Segundo, Calif.-based solution provider, also expects to have success penetrating the new market opened up by the Pentagon's seal of approval for Apple devices.

"Generally, the iPad has gone from a device that was in need of applications to one that has many applications for the government and the military," said Phil Mogavero, vice president and regional CTO of PCM Inc., an El Segundo, Calif.-based solution provider.

"We have a sales division focused on the federal government, which includes the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. We also work very closely with Apple, so we will see an uptake in service opportunities," Mogavero said. Mogavero said he also predicts an uptake in Android sales.

Approval of the Apple products followed days behind the May 2 approval of the BlackBerry 10 smartphone, BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and Samsung Galaxy S4.

"This STIG [Security Technical Implementation Guide] and the recently-approved STIGs for the BlackBerry and Samsung Knox operating systems demonstrate DISA's commitment to validate a range of devices that meet DoD security standards so the best technology is available to achieve DoD mission requirements," according to a statement from DISA.

Scott Totzke, senior vice president, BlackBerry Security, responded about the competition in a statement sent to CRN: "Technical certifications are an important but only first, 'threshold' step in meeting the needs of truly secure mobile computing for government. Security, reliability and the ability to perform in crisis situations when you depend on mobility are all important hallmarks of the BlackBerry solution."

PUBLISH MAY 29, 2013

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