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DOD insists that it still supports RIM as a platform, just is being more flexible

As embattled Canadian phonemaker Research in Motion, Ltd.'s (TSE:RIM) image in the consumer market has gone down in flames, RIM has seen its long loyal legion of business and government users begin to abandon it for rival's managed alternatives.  

Amidst the expected delay of the next generation BlackBerry 10 (BB10) platform to March 2013 and high fees, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, all dropped the platform.

Despite a promise from RIM to cut fees, the latest casualty appears to be the U.S. Department of Defense, although RIM will likely suffer a slow death at the agency, unlike the previous speedy exits.  While the Pentagon emphasizes that it is still supporting BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for secured employee smartphones -- for now -- it is now preparing what many view as an exit strategy from RIM's services.

Under the plan, third-party contractors will compete to offer secured platforms built on Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android and Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iOS.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) posting called for an initial user base of 162,500 smartphones for a 1-year contract for device management software and support.  That number could grow to 262,500 with 6-month contract extensions, if the smaller trial goes well.  Eventually the deployment could swell to the 8 million devices deployed by the DoD and its partners.

But a DoD spokesperson insisted to Reuters that it isn't abandoning RIM, for now.  They commented, "DISA is managing an enterprise email capability that continues to support large numbers of RIM devices while moving forward with the department's planned mobile management capability that will support a variety of mobility devices."

RIM tried to offer a cheerful spin on the news, arguing that if its handsets are abandoned, it will at least get a chance to compete for managing Android and iOS smarpthones.  RIM offers a product called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which allows traditional BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES) to manage its rival's handsets.

But given RIM's still relatively high fees and the IT community's long-standing dislike for BES products, it may be wishful thinking for RIM to assume it can win the contract to manage its competitors' products.

To its credit, RIM is realistic in aiming pretty low -- it's at most hoping to establish itself as the third place phonemaker.  But amid a resurgent Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) RIM will be lucky if it doesn't find itself on the bottom of the pile, particularly as both the consumer and enterprise markets turn their back on its increasingly dated devices.

RIM's financial advisors have reportedly suggested selling its handset business now, while it retains a modicum of value, but its executive management appear to be opting to ignore that expert advice in hopes of a surprise turnaround.

Sources: FedBizOpportunities, Reuters

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RE: Hardware challenge
By Manch on 11/1/2012 11:38:09 PM , Rating: 2
Not as slow as you may think. Many DoD components are jumping ship and their employees and contractors are already moving to implement alternate solution from FIXMO. It was derived from an NSA built program called autoberry.

This is by far a more cost effective program vs BES.

Granted certain installations will not allow a phone no matter what, camera or no camera. That's mainly an EMSEC issue.

RE: Hardware challenge
By inperfectdarkness on 11/2/2012 2:32:21 AM , Rating: 3
This. Things have changed quite a bit in the past 5 years, and virtually ALL forms of electronic devices are banned from secret-classified areas. That's everything from E-Readers to ipods to gameboys. Doesn't matter if it has a camera, wifi, bluetooth, etc.

To me, Android has the most promise because it's closest thing to "linux mobile" there is. The government likes to use linux for several types of applications, such as TTC. With the broad variety of device manufactuers and types of devices available, it is entirely probable that the government will seek to contract with one of these manufacturers to make a "feature-constrained" version of one of their offerings available for DOD use. By "ghosting" the phones to run a specialized version of android (or some other modifiable OS) the phones can be given the exact specific features and controls that the government seeks to utilize in its "duty phones".

Fixmo looks promising. Whatever is chosen for a solution, it needs to have tighter security than the public-garden-variety mobile OS's.

RE: Hardware challenge
By Manch on 11/2/2012 7:41:24 AM , Rating: 1
The DOD does actually contract out for feature constrained and hardened versions of products all the time but these are generally reserved for the larger componenets that can buy in bulk.

FIXMO is a BYOD solution for users that want their UNCLAS files on the go. It provides an encrypted container for your work info/files. It also manages what programs are allowed on the phone. Like PDA's that came before, BYOD has restrictions the end user will have to agree upon.

It's free to the DoD

RE: Hardware challenge
By Shadowself on 11/2/2012 9:27:40 AM , Rating: 2
If you want a truly secure handheld, this is one such device...

It is not, and very likely never will be, Android based. And no, it is not the "standard" variant of Windows CE on that device. All the software/firmware on this device is specifically customized. There is absolutely no open source software on it.

Open Source Software fanatics have to realize there are certain business segments where just the mention of OSS makes people skin crawl.

RE: Hardware challenge
By sprockkets on 11/2/2012 10:43:03 AM , Rating: 2
Open Source Software fanatics have to realize there are certain business segments where just the mention of OSS makes people skin crawl.

Shows how much you know.

And btw, just because you have no access to the source code doesn't make your software any more secure.

RE: Hardware challenge
By Shadowself on 11/2/2012 12:38:12 PM , Rating: 2
This is NOT for truly secure communications.

Hell, U.S. DoD personnel are using both iPhones and Android phones in the field RIGHT NOW for operational pursposes. They just don't use them for secure communications (think non perishable Secret information or any form of TS/SCI information).

RE: Hardware challenge
By nafhan on 11/2/2012 10:52:54 AM , Rating: 2
You sound like an expert. Please, explain why the NSA dislikes OSS (especially Linux) so much.

RE: Hardware challenge
By Shadowself on 11/2/2012 12:41:22 PM , Rating: 2
There are various levels of security controls. At the highest levels the algorithms, implementations of those algorithms and the software sources that instantiate those algorithms and even the chips are not public.

Any form of OSS misses this on all fronts.

RE: Hardware challenge
By nafhan on 11/2/2012 12:53:43 PM , Rating: 2
Security by obscurity it is then?

RE: Hardware challenge
By Master Kenobi on 11/2/2012 7:57:34 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed security is great to have but you also want as much obscurity as possible on top of it. Fort Knox might have great security, but half of it's effective security is the fact that the protocols and procedures inside the facility are kept secret. Open Source advocates generally don't consider obscurity when looking at security. The general viewpoint is if everyone can see the code, then flaws will be found and security will be tighter. In many cases that may hold true, but even flawless software will have methods of exploitation that the software author may or may not have any control over. If they know how your code works and can replicate it into a testing environment easily, then it's just a matter of time before they find a useful weakness and hammer you into the ground. An additional beauty of obscurity is that any opponent must do information gathering to determine how your security is setup before they can evaluate it for weaknesses. If you are paying attention you should be able to catch many opponents by their information gathering routines, before they become a bigger headache.

*In all honesty most of why Fort Knox is so secure is because there is a brigade of M1 Abrams tanks just down the street. Anyone dumb enough to attack that place head on is going to get crushed by many of the best Main Battle Tanks in the world.

RE: Hardware challenge
By sprockkets on 11/2/2012 1:06:00 PM , Rating: 2
So what you REALLY are saying is your argument about OSS was just a straw man arugment, seeing how no OSS person ever to begin with wants to have OSS in areas where it serves no purpose, and that no privately made phone "open source" or otherwise wouldn't fit the bill either?

RE: Hardware challenge
By elleehswon on 11/6/2012 10:26:21 AM , Rating: 2
didn't the NSA develop selinux?

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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