NOAA switching from BlackBerrys to Apple iPhones, iPads

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric is turning away from BlackBerry’s in favor of Apple iPhones and iPads, continuing a trend among government and business organizations.

On Feb. 3, NOAA’s Office of the CIO released its new Mobile Device Security Policy, which, simply put, says the agency will allow mobile devices that can be securely managed through its Unified Messaging Service (UMS).

Right now, that includes iPhones, iPads and conventional cell phones, but they will only support BlackBerrys through the existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) through May 2012.

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“It’s hard to ignore the direction that the federal government is going with allowing a diversity of mobile devices into the environments,” CIO Joe Klimavicz told GCN.

The agency’s implementation of Google Apps for Government makes cross-platform central management of mobile devices possible. No longer is a third-party server, such as a BES, necessary to keep the organization’s devices secure. BES also makes BlackBerry comparatively expensive.

Klimavicz continued, “We tested and prototyped a number of Apple devices, Android devices, and also BlackBerry devices. We think that we can securely manage iPhones and iPads with the necessary encryption.”

But while this does mean that BlackBerry will likely lose its hold on this sector of the federal government (the agency currently has 3,000 BlackBerrys in use among its 20,000 employees, the New York Times reported), Klimavicz doesn’t know whether they will be abandoning them entirely.

“We are still investigating how well we can manage BlackBerry devices through Google Apps,” he said. “It can be done, but whether it can be done to our security standards will remain to be seen,” he said.

Support for BlackBerrys will continue through May 2012, when NOAA plans to move to Apple devices, and at which point they will have to make the call as to whether UMS can manage some BlackBerrys securely enough.

“I want an employee to have a wide a range of devices that they can pick from,” Klimavicz said.

Whether they will be able to include Android and Blackberry devices in that range will remain to be seen.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.


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