|Casting doubt on Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins' declaration that he expects at least 400,000 government customers in the United States to upgrade to BlackBerry 10 devices, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has revealed its plan to switch to Apple's iPhone 5. The move will take place in phases across calendar year 2013, with the ultimate intention of shifting away from the BlackBerry architecture completely.
According to the NTSB, the BlackBerry phones in service have been "failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate" which is detrimental to the agency's need for "effective, reliable and stable communication capabilities to carry out its primary investigative mission and to ensure employee safety in remote locations."
Sarneet Kanade, an analyst at Northern Securities noted the announcement and was asked if RIM could successfully court other governmental agencies after the repeated losses to Apple and Android-based phones. He commented that "once customers start coming out in the open and saying they’re dissatisfied with the product, it’s very, very difficult" to increase business. “It’s very difficult for your brand to be relevant when you’re losing your base itself.”
Electronista has discovered that the majority of the BlackBerry devices in NTSB service are three years old or older, and predominantly on BlackBerry OS 6. We were told that if the agency wanted to stay with the BlackBerry ecosystem, nearly all devices would have to be replaced with new hardware.
Following the news, a RIM spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company “has been dedicated to providing government with secure, reliable mobile communications for more than a decade. We will soon be launching the new BlackBerry 10 platform globally to meet our customer’s needs in the decade ahead.”
In the last few months, major government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton has opted to move away from BlackBerry in favor of iPhones or Android phones for its own 25,000 employees. The US government Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is shifting $2.1 million in purchases annually away from BlackBerry and towards Apple and Android phones. The Government Business Council has said that federal use of BlackBerry technology by federal service managers has dropped to nearly half of its 2011 levels.