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October 23, 2012

U.S. ICE Goes from BlackBerry to Apple

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

The United States Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said earlier today that they planned to end their contract with RIM--Research in Motion (News - Alert), provider of the BlackBerry line of devices--in order to get in on a different mobile phone provider. It will likely come as a surprise to few that they'll be trading one fruit for another, going from the BlackBerry to the iPhone (News - Alert) from Apple.

This news comes at what may well be the worst possible time for RIM, as they had plans to roll out a new device that looked to put some punch back in BlackBerry's bottom line. But the technological advances came too little too late for ICE, who said that RIM, even after eight years of working with them, "can no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency". 

Image via Shutterstock

ICE plans to buy iPhones for all of their 17,600 employees, a purchase valued at $2.1 million, following the analysis of not only iPhones, but also several devices in the Android (News - Alert) family. However, the iPhone eventually won out, owing to what was described as its "tight controls of the hardware platform and operating system".

iPhones would go out to large portions of the agency, from Homeland Security Investigations, Enforcement and Removal Operations as well as employees with the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor.

This isn't the first time a group has thrown over BlackBerry for Apple, either; just last week, Booz Allen Hamilton (News - Alert) announced that they would switch from BlackBerry to a selection of Apple and Android devices for their 25,000-strong staff.

While BlackBerry security is still a potent force in the market, it's having a hard time keeping up with the fusion of form and function that Apple's (News - Alert) iPhone--as well as many of the direct competitors in the Android vein--presents so readily. Sure, new devices are coming from BlackBerry that look to be better competitors, but businesses, and even government agencies, can't wait that long. They're going with what's best and out now, not waiting for a platform to get its act together and compete.

Worse, the questions about BlackBerry's long-term viability are making companies that wouldn't have thought about changing over think about doing just that, exacerbating the problem and sending people away from BlackBerry devices in favor of devices with a better perceived long-term viability.

There are plenty of problems for BlackBerry to address, from design issues to long-term stability to even the content of their app marketplaces. Right now, the answers on all those fronts don't look good for Research in Motion, and they'll have to fix quite a bit, and make it clear they're fixing quite a bit, in order to remain a competitor in the field.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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