A recent move by the U.S. federal government's General Services Administration away from Research in Motion BlackBerry smartphones has a number of nuances to it.
The GSA, which is the primary procurement agency for the U.S. federal government, reportedly is issuing iPhones and Android smart phones to some of its 17,000 workers. The agency had been relying on RIM BlackBerry devices because they use protected servers that help make messages transmitted with a BlackBerry more secure.
There are a number of interesting aspects to this announcement.
First and most obvious, it is being seen as a blow to RIM -- on of many in the past few months. The potential loss of 17,000 users is certainly not a good sign for the company. And it could get worse. As Reuters notes, "While the General Services Administration does not impose its purchasing decisions on other parts of the government, the terms and conditions it negotiates can be used as a blueprint for other agencies."
Second, what does this mean for secure communications for government employees? Despite RIM's issues recently, it is still frequently seen as the only game in town for secure communications.
Next, Reuters notes that the GSA is also testing the use of employees' personal smartphones and tablets on their secure networks. This is certainly a major push to the movement toward letting employees bring in and use their own devices.
Finally, what is it going to mean for President Barack Obama, famously so attached to his "BarackBerry" during the Presidential campaign that provisions had to be made for a special extra-secure one for him to use once he became President?
The GSA told Reuters that devices from Apple and those using Google's Android software accounted for less than 5 percent of the agency's fleet, and that the majority were still using BlackBerrys -- also, that the personal device pilot was intended to supplement, not replace, the BlackBerry program. But other government and quasi-government organiztions are dropping the BlackBerry as well.