Despite RIM’s reassurances to developers at this week’s Mobile World Congress, the mass exodus of its government customers continued as another U.S. federal agency announced that it would ditch BlackBerry in favor of the iPhone. The agency in question is The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which announced that it will be abandoning the BlackBerry and RIM services beginning this month.
As the agency revealed its plans, RIM attempted to cast a softer light on the situation by playing up it’s overall standing with the U.S. government.
ATF chief information officer Rick Holgate announced the move in an interview with Politico and offered some insight into the agency’s future plans.
“We’re going to delete the BlackBerry from the mix.”
And they’re going to do it quickly. ATF is set to begin replacing 2,400 BlackBerry devices assigned to its field agents with iPhones this month. Holgate said the transition from the agencies 3,800 RIM handsets to be complete in “probably no more than a year.”
ATF plans to “scale out” the remaining BlackBerries over the course of the year with a mix of mobile technologies that will likely include iPads – the agency is currently conducting a pilot program of 200 iPads. The moves are part of a broad mobile upgrade initiative at ATF. The federal government overall is seeing a big mobile push this year along with a trend of moving away from RIM’s BlackBerry and related services.
A statement from a RIM spokesperson attempted to downplay the loss of ATF (and the earlier announcement from NOAA that it would be following a very similar course) by promoting the company’s government-related security certifications and its overall relationship with the U.S. government saying that RIM “continues to work closely with its more than 1 million government customers in North America who rely on the unmatched security of the BlackBerry platform.”
Holgate noted that the features required by the agency are available on most smartphones including the iPhone, which does them better than the BlackBerry.
“Yes, these things exist on BlackBerrys, but in terms of ease of use and adaptability of the devices, the iPhones are the more functional and compelling use case.”