For a struggling BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd, the announcement of the Pentagon last Wednesday to continue support “large numbers” of BlackBerry phones is good news. The Pentagon has recently allowed plans to let military personnel use Apple’s iPhones and other devices over BlackBerrys.
Last week, the United States Defense Department invited companies to submit bids to create software that meet its security specifications that would work on devices made by Google Inc and Apple. The department plans to award the contract to a winner by April 2013.
DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency) discreetly posted some requests for proposals through a federal website about a week ago to coincided with the announcement of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency that it would no longer be using BlackBerrys to give way to Apple’s iPhones.
RIM, once the immensely favorite smartphone company by corporations and institutions, is gradually losing its market share in the smartphone market as it faces the onslaught of Samsung and Apple devices. Losing a contract with the Pentagon would be another big blow for the company.
The Pentagon had been using BlackBerry phones for several years as RIM continually met the strict security requirements. However, other companies are keen to enhance the security features of their phones, while at the same time providing bigger touch screens and improved browsers, which are some of the demands of many military commanders.
A spokesman from the Pentagon revealed that it is working on allowing other vendors as suppliers of smartphones without compromising security requirements.
The spokesman also said the Defense Department wants to use commercial mobile technologies as it enhanced its call for “new and innovative applications” to meet the evolving military requirements.
At the same time, the Pentagon announced that it is not completely leaving RIM’s BlackBerry phones.
The spokesman said: “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.”
DISA’s request for proposal stated that the needed software should be able to manage a minimum of 162,000 devices initially, although the number is expected to grow to 262,500 towards the end of the contract.
A maximum of about 8 million devices are targeted to be most number of devices that the software should be able to support ultimately.
Paul Lucier, RIM spokesman, said that his company’s BlackBerry Mobile Fusion could be used to manage both Apple and Android devices. He added that RIM was excited for the opportunity to include BlackBerry Mobile Fusion in the DOD’s portfolio.”
BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, according to Lucier, should allow the Pentagon to “support a growing number of mobile devices across multiple platforms.”
Canada-based firm Waterloo is also planning to make new smartphones that will use BlackBerry 10 operating system, featuring smoother and faster user interface as well as a good alternative platform for a variety of smartphone apps.