(Reuters) – In another blow for beleaguered BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, the U.S. federal government‘s main procurement agency is issuing iPhones and Android-based devices to some of its 17,000 workers.
While the General Services Administration does not impose its purchasing decisions on other parts of the government, the terms and conditions it negotiates can be used as a blueprint for other agencies.
“We actively seek to be progressive in our adoption of new technologies so that we can learn the lessons which will inform our client and customer agencies as they seek to go down a similar path,” the GSA’s chief information officer, Casey Coleman, told Reuters in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Once Washington’s only option for secure mobile communication, RIM has struggled to offset a rising tide of companies allowing their workers to use their own devices for work or supplying them with rival devices, which have made strides towards matching the BlackBerry’s famed security.
The GSA – which manages $500 billion of government assets including telecom, information technology and real estate – is also testing the use of employees’ personal smartphones and tablets on their secure networks, a popular move for corporations looking to cut costs.
Coleman said that BlackBerry remains by far the most used smartphone at GSA, with devices from Apple and those using Google’s Android software accounting for less than 5 percent of the agency’s fleet, which covers the majority of GSA employees.
The personal smartphone pilot is to supplement rather than replace government-issued devices, she said, and the GSA has no plans to abandon RIM servers, which manage secure BlackBerry traffic.
RIM charges a fee for use of its servers and data centers, which compress and encrypt email and other sensitive data.
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