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US alcohol and firearms regulator abandons BlackBerry for iPhone, other platforms

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has announced plans to replace existing BlackBerry smartphones in use by employees with iPhones and other competing devices.

BlackBerry logo busted old (1020)
BlackBerry logo busted old (1020)

RIM's mobile marketshare among US federal agencies has been dealt another blow with news that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives plans to swap out its entire fleet of BlackBerrys — approximately 3,800 — in favor of competing devices. The agency's chief information officer certainly didn't mince words in an interview with Politico, saying that the ATF would "delete the BlackBerry from the mix." As was the case with similar moves by NOAA and Halliburton earlier this month, the iPhone is set to be the big winner here, with the ATF selecting Apple's handset to replace 60 percent (or 2,400) of those units starting in March. The remaining 1,400 will be phased out and replaced with a mix of other smartphones, though the agency hasn't specified which mobile OS it will employ for those devices. The entire switch is expected to be completed within one year.

"The government has been very comfortable with the BlackBerry model for 10 years," said Holgate. "Now we're looking to move beyond that." Whereas NOAA cited a need to cut costs as its reason for abandoning RIM, Holgate credits "ease of use and adaptability" as the primary motivation for embracing iOS. Speaking of which, it would seem the ATF's interest in Apple's technology extends beyond phones: Politico reports that a pilot program conducted by the agency involving 200 iPads is just now coming to a close.