CNN is reporting that the US government expects to adopt a custom Android platform for the military, and some federal agencies and federal contractors — a move that will give Google a foothold in federal territory that RIM has clutched decidedly for years. The news isn't a total surprise: last year, reports surfaced that the US Army expected Android to be approved for military networks by the end of 2011, and the US Department of Defense approved a Dell build of Android 2.2 in December. Army director Michael McCarthy tells CNN that the Army has been trying out touchscreen devices for nearly two years, and that it plans to ship 50 more phones and 75 tablets to soldiers overseas in March.
The report claims that the US intends to install its custom software on commercially available phones, and that it wants to eventually support any type of smartphone for government use. But for now, it's starting with a custom modification of Android's kernel that will give users fine-grained control over which data and applications can be utilized — these phones will reportedly provide officials with detailed reports about what type of data each application will utilize, and permit the user to allow or deny each data transmission request. The US is also said to be taking an unusual approach to the new platform, by allowing each version of the Android OS to be certified once for all federal agencies, rather than having each agency perform its own independent security testing.
If the government follows through on expanding its smartphone portfolio this year, US workers may finally gain broader choices that the market already provides them with in their personal lives — and Obama just might be able to upgrade from that aging handset.