Army Official Predicts 'Mass Migration' Away From BlackBerry Smartphones

By Stew Magnuson

SAN DIEGO — Android and iOS enabled devices will largely replace the ubiquitous BlackBerry as the Army's smartphone of choice in the coming years, a senior service official said Nov. 19 at the Milcom conference here.

Lt. Col. Ed Mattison, Army CIO/G-6 cyber security directorate and mobility technical lead, said there won't be any top down orders to make the switch from one type of smartphone to another because it is up to each individual command to dictate and fund their own mobility requirements. 

They all receive their mobility services from the Defense Information Systems Agency depending on their individual needs.

Come Jan. 1, those in the Army who want to make the switch from the current legacy BlackBerry devices to the new BlackBerry10 will be able to do so when new servers come online. However, on the same day, an 18-month pilot program that had about 3,500 Android and iOS enabled devices will be transitioning to initial operating capability and will be able to support some 50,000 non-BlackBerry phones.

"DISA is a customer focused organization so as long as their customers want BlackBerry services, it will continue to provide them," he said.

"We expect over the next several years that the majority of users that are currently using BlackBerrys will migrate to an iOS or Android device and they will leave the BlackBerry service and go to the new DISA mobility service," he said.

Some commands are taking that option right away. One will be switching its 10,000 BlackBerry devices to Androids on Jan. 1, Mattison said.

Currently, of the 100,000 government issued phones in the hands of Army personnel -- mostly senior officers -- about 70,000 are BlackBerrys, he said. The "vast majority" will be making the switch, he added.

This news comes as BlackBerry is struggling to remain in business. Its sales have sharply fallen, and the Canadian company has struggled financially. It recently received a $1 billion cash infusion from a private investment firm, but its sales have withered because of competition from iPhones and Androids.

Mattison said these financial woes are not too disconcerting because DISA runs its own BlackBerry servers, and doesn't depend on the company to provide services.

Topics: C4ISR, Tactical Communications, Infotech, Procurement

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