Feds switch some from BlackBerry, Outlook to iOS, Gmail

US government moving towards iPhone, iPad, Gmail

One of the last bastions of the BlackBerry and Exchange mail, the US government, is moving some of its workers towards the iPad, iPhone, and Gmail instead, a look into the institution has revealed. Contractors like Agilex are helping the ATF, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress, the State Department, and others have the option of choosing iPhones or iPads, and sometimes Android, instead of the previously mandatory BlackBerry devices. Federal CTO Vivek Kundra told the Washington Post that he had proposed a strategy similar to private firms, where users get to pick their devices and just have to meet security standards.

Kundra himself carried both a BlackBerry out of necessity and an iPhone out of desire, but wanted to consolidate around the iPhone to be a "one-device guy." Technology at home was now frequently better than what was at government offices, leading many to bring devices in on their own because they either wanted to or in some cases felt it was necessary.

"If you look at the average school kid, he or she probably has better technology in his or her backpack than most of us do in government offices," he said.

Only about 50 iOS devices are in use at the ATF, but the number is expected to double. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory previously had 1,000 BlackBerry phones, all of them required, but has seen about 300 of those go towards iPhones and Android.

Online, the GSA was moving to Gmail and planned to cut its costs by half in dropping the Microsoft option. Agriculture Department officials were moving to a Microsoft cloud option, though it too would save money, or about $6 million a year.

The device moves have raised concerns about security, since the default mail option on Android and iOS isn't as secure as the BlackBerry. Those with 3G and 4G devices can also get online and potentially pass government data along while bypassing the entire local network.

A gradual switch away is nonetheless a major blow to both Microsoft and RIM. The BlackBerry has already been losing share as personal users and private businesses have been either trialing or using alternative smartphones, including an iPhone test at Deutsche Bank. Microsoft has also tried to make Exchange the de facto platform for corporate e-mail but has seen cheaper and at times more secure web options appear that pushed it to refine a system of its own.

  1. bigmig 05/31, 03:47pm

    Wow, I hope the FTC and DOJ don't move to Gmail. Otherwise I guarantee that thousands of emails are going to mysteriously get "lost" as soon as there is any examination of Google's market power in online search. More generally, do we really want Google (or Microsoft, or Apple, or any other private company) to have full access to all correspondence within a given government agency?

  1. viktorob 05/31, 05:28pm

    I understand moving from blackberries to other devices, but GMAIL?? Gmail does not even have PUSH to MAIL. you need to program your phone to manually check for email every X minutes.

  1. wrenchy 06/01, 01:27am

    Oh yeah, maybe they should move over to the half-baked "MobileMe" Service. That will really keep the Feds hoppin'. Random deleted emails, service unavailability, slow performance, unpredictable behaviour and unexpected logouts.

    Yeah that's MUCH better.


    - Sent from my Android Device.

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