In one more sign of Research In Motion’s waning influence, a high-profile federal agency is phasing out its use of BlackBerry smartphones in favor of Apple’s iOS smartphones and tablets.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a solicitation document posted last week that BlackBerry “can no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency.”
The agency used BlackBerry smartphones for the past eight years, leveraging the platform’s apps, email and calendar functions. It is now spending $2.11 million to provide iOS devices and services to 17,676 employees.
“Apple iOS services offer the salient characteristics and critical functions essential to meeting the agency’s requirements and market research indicates that no other company’s products can meet the agency’s needs,” ICE said.
The agency had considered Android smartphones, but eventually selected iOS because “Apple’s strict control of the hardware platform and operating system, independent of telecommunication vendor, provides ICD with the greatest degree of control and management.”
The iPhones will be used by Homeland Security Investigations, Enforcement and Removal Operations and employees with the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor.
RIM could not be immediately reached for comment on the government’s decision.
The ICE solicitation document details the agency’s decision-making process, and points to the shrinking presence of RIM and Nokia in the U.S. market.
“Both companies have failed to innovate and consumers have rejected them,” the agency said. “The net effect is that both first have been relegated to laggards in the consumer market which has made them too risky for adoption as a ‘go-to’ choice for enterprise use.”
The only factor that kept RIM in the running for the ICE device contract was its “status as a legacy product.”
BlackBerry’s market share has steadily dwindled. It held just 8 percent of the U.S. smartphone market for the three months ending in August, according to the most recent estimates from comScore. By comparison, Android held nearly 53 percent and iOS held 34 percent.
RIM is banking its turnaround effort on BlackBerry 10, but repeated delays in the platform’s launch have raised doubts about its likelihood of success.