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Even US generals have realised BlackBerries are uncool

Did they say why, Willard, why they want to terminate my command?

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The Pentagon has joined the US Immigration and Customers in shifting away from RIM's BlackBerry as the aging platform becomes so uncool that even civil servants eschew it.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement said last week that it had spent $2.1m on iPhones as the BlackBerry device can't cut it any more, and this week it emerged that the Pentagon was also looking at alternatives though it would continue to support a "large number" of BlackBerry devices, but the trend is clear and unlikely to slow before RIM's new hardware hits the shelves next year.

It’s a trend which has been building for a while, with the General Services Administration expanding support to iOS and Android back in February, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announcing in February that it would be switching off its BlackBerry servers.

It is those servers which make BlackBerry, and RIM, such a given in both business and government circles. End-to-end security, and reliably-pushed email, were RIM's killer feature for years, but are now available on competing platforms which have come a long way in terms of general security too. The Immigration Department's decision to go with iOS was, in part, motivated by the closed nature of both the hardware and software, which gave them greater confidence in the security of the platform. Supporting Android might mean supporting a range of hardware from unknown (and perhaps untrusted) manufacturers; supporting iOS provides more confidence, or at least a clear target to blame if the security fails.

The trend is also reflecting big business, which is also switching in droves, with US gov consultant Booz Allen last week asking 25,000 staff to choose between Android and iOS devices as it abandons RIM's handsets and servers. This follows on from Yahoo!'s decision last month to offer staff anything except a BlackBerry.

None of which is unexpected for RIM, which claims to still have at least a million users in the US government. The Canadian firm is betting everything on its BlackBerry 10 platform and devices expected early next year. To be successful, RIM will need to entice back millions of users who've already switched, so a few tens of thousands more isn't a big deal, even if they are working for Uncle Sam. ®

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