Another federal bureau to abandon BlackBerry

U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives switching to iPhones

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If I were truly shameless, I would have made the headline to this post:

U.S. Government declares war on Canada's BlackBerry!

But I'm only slightly shameless, so while I wouldn't put something so inaccurate and sensationalistic in a headline, I am counting on the sentence in the box above to provide some SEO-driven traffic.

The pretext for such a misleading claim is that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives "is planning to start the process of ditching Research in Motion’s signature BlackBerry wireless phone largely in favor of the iPhone," according to the website POLITICO.

“The government has been very comfortable with the BlackBerry model for 10 years,” Rick Holgate, ATF’s chief information officer, told POLITICO in an interview. “Now we're looking to move beyond that.”

The approximately 3,800 RIM smartphones now being used by ATF workers will be replaced in "probably" no more than a year, Holgate said, with Apple's iPhone expected to replace more than 60% of the "deleted" devices.

But most of the BlackBerrys could be ATF history much sooner, according to POLITICO:

March has been set as the target month to start replacing some 2,400 BlackBerrys assigned to special agents in the field with iPhones. ATF is currently prepping its mobile device infrastructure — scaling up licenses and installing a software upgrade for its mobile device management — before pulling the trigger on purchasing iPhones.

The ATF also will use other, unspecified smartphones to replace some BlackBerrys. Androids of some sort would be a reasonable guess, unless Nokia's poised to move in on the government market with the Lumia or some left-over Symbians. Just kidding.

In addition, ATF is conducting a pilot program using about 200 iPad tablets.

Earlier this month, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it would gradually replace about 3,000 BlackBerry devices with iPhones and will stop using RIM servers in June. NOAA also might purchase some Androids in the future.

A RIM spokesperson tried to downplay the ATF news, saying in a statement that RIM "continues to work closely with its more than 1 million government customers in North America who rely on the unmatched security of the BlackBerry platform."

Of course, that's the thing: When large companies such as Halliburton and large, security-conscious government agencies are willing to walk away from the "unmatched security of the BlackBerry platform" for the rivals that are eating RIM's lunch, it can embolden others to do the same.

Which would be RIM's biggest nightmare.

Shares of RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) were down 17 cents, or 1.2 percent, to 14.33 in late Wednesday afternoon trading.

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