The United States's Department of Defense or Pentagon is considering ditching its exclusive contract with Canada-based Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry mobile phone, in favour of new deals with makers of the iPhone and Android cellphones.
It is not just Pentagon that is seeking other mobile phone providers, but also the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a unit under U.S. Homeland Security. Both ICE and Pentagon had informed RIM of their decision to invite other companies to submit proposals, Reuters reported.
The move is seen as another blow to the financially challenged RIM which had lost a substantial part of its market to other technology firms. Its sales in the U.S. tumbled down 47 per cent compared to the previous 12 months for the year ended March 3 as consumers opted for newer smartphones with larger touch screens and faster browsers.
Pentagon plans to use devices made by Apple and Google to monitor, manage and enforce security requirements of the department, but assured RIM that it would continue to support large numbers of BlackBerry smartphones because of its secure communication. The BlackBerry used to be the preferred mobile phone of the U.S. government because of its military-standard security and back-end encryption features.
Pentagon's Defense Information System Agency is eying to manage at least 162,500 at the start of the new contract, but it could rise to 262,500 by the end of the deal. However, Pentagon's ultimate goal is to support up to 8 million units of the new generation smartphones.
CNET said it is not yet a lost game for RIM since the BlackBerry-maker could still be awarded the Pentagon contract, but Apple and Google are open to submit proposals and are working toward government certification as proof that their gadgets could be managed in a secure enterprise environment and tapped for official government communications.
RIM is scheduled to release it next range of BlackBerry 10 smartphones by the late first quarter of 2013.
Pentagon is slated to award the single-company contract by April 2013. The deal will cover one year but will have the option to extend it by two more years. The bids are due Nov 27.
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