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US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency ends BlackBerry contract, will issue iPhones instead

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RIM Blackberry tour
RIM Blackberry tour

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has ended its agreement with RIM to provide staffers with BlackBerry smartphones and will instead offer its employees iPhones. Reuters notes that this move affects about 17,600 employees and will cost the agency about $2.1 million. The ICE has used RIM's products for eight years, but it claims that at this point, BlackBerry smartphones "can no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency." The group did look at Google's Android platform as another option, but it concluded that Apple's tightly-controlled ecosystem would best serve its needs. "The iPhone services will allow these individuals to leverage reliable, mobile technology on a secure and manageable platform in furtherance of the agency's mission," said the ICE.

"[BlackBerry smartphones] can no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency."

This latest development is just the most recent in a series of lost government contracts for RIM. Earlier this year, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and General Services Administration all revealed that they would be moving some or all of their staff off of BlackBerry smartphones and on to iPhones or Android devices. However, these agencies only represent a small number of the total government smartphone user base. RIM is quick to note that even when counting the latest move by the ICE, it still has over one million government customers in North America.

RIM plans to launch its next-generation BlackBerry 10 platform early next year, and it remains to be seen whether or not it will be able to use it to win back some of the government contracts it has lost over the past year.