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Blow to BlackBerry as Pentagon Opens Up Network for Apple and Google

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The Defense Department will consider iOS and Android devices for its employees starting February 2014.

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Even as its domestic and international market share have been eroded by the likes of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) in recent years, BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) could always count on its strength in the enterprise arena, with businesses and government agencies favoring the stability and security of its system.

However, BlackBerry's dominance in these markets has come under threat thanks to the growing popularity of Bring-Your-Own-Device (or BYOD) policies at workplaces, which means companies no longer need to issue 'locked-down' BlackBerrys to their employees.

Last year, several high-profile businesses and agencies, including Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), Halliburton (NYSE:HAL), and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), turned away from the Waterloo, Ontario-based company. The latest to do so this week is the US Defense Department.

The Pentagon put out a news release yesterday announcing a "commercial mobile device implementation plan" that would allow iOS and Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) devices to be used on its communications networks come February 2014. The department will not be implementing a BYOD policy. Rather, "it is going to a multi-vendor policy from an approach that was highly centered on BlackBerry devices," as Forbes explained.

For the first time ever, commercial devices such as the iPhone and the iPad will be allowed to access the Defense Department's classified networks. The department also aims to launch a military mobile applications store and hire a contractor to create a network system that could handle up to 8 million devices.

"As today's DoD personnel increasingly rely on mobile technology as a key capability enabler for joint force combat operations, the application of mobile technology into global operations, integration of secure and non-secure communications, and development of portable, cloud-enabled capability will dramatically increase the number of people able to collaborate and share information rapidly," Teri Takai, the department's chief information officer, said in a statement.

"This is not simply about embracing the newest technology -- it is about keeping the department's workforce relevant in an era when information accessibility and cybersecurity play a critical role in mission success," he added.

Currently, the Pentagon has over 600,000 mobile devices, including 470,000 BlackBerrys, 41,000 Apple products, and 8,700 assorted Android devices, though most of the Apple and Android devices are not connected to the Defence Department's networks, Bloomberg reported. With the department now opening its networks to Apple and Google phones, BlackBerry's overwhelming dominance will certainly be under threat.

"We're device-agnostic," Air Force Major General Robert Wheeler said yesterday at a Pentagon press conference, according to Bloomberg. "What we're looking for is to have a family of devices" that can be used by personnel of all ranks, he said.

On its part, BlackBerry will be hoping that its newest Z10 and Q10 devices will prove to be so well-received that government agencies such as the Pentagon will continue to stick to BlackBerry even when Apple and Google devices are available for selection.

BlackBerry was down 1.23% to $12.90 as of 11:19 a.m. EST.

(See also: Even the Security-Conscious US Federal Government Is Dumping BlackBerrys for iPhones and Can Research in Motion Stop the Apple and Google Onslaught in the Enterprise Arena?)

Twitter: @sterlingwong

Disclosure: Minyanville has a business relationship with BlackBerry.
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