In what may be the biggest fallout from last year’s patent infringement lawsuit against RIM, the United States Army has opted to break the monopoly BlackBerry has had with army wireless e-mail communication.
Until recently, US Army employees accessing sensitive e-mail messages on the Global Information Grid had to use BlackBerries. The Research in Motion devices were the only ones approved for use. But that is changing and it is not good news for RIM.
In February, the US Army approved Sensa secure mobile e-mail from Apriva/Appsware Wireless, for use with sensitive-but-unclassified and for-official-use-only e-mail. That approval makes available a host of personal digital assistants from multiple carriers running the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system.
US soldiers now have a choice.
Officially the Army sees competition as a good thing. Lt. Col. C.J. Wallington, the Army’s advanced technologies director at Fort Belvoir, said “When you get different products you increase your security posture, you lower your costs and you increase your feature choices.” More disturbingly for RIM the Colonel went on to add “RIM is a good product, but they became a little complacent and didn’t address the Army’s needs.”
The threat of a BlackBerry shutdown because of the lawsuit is an example of the need for a variety of platforms for messaging and e-mail, Wallington said.
Richard Spinella, Apriva’s vice president of government solutions said “We had the luxury of building a product from the ground up to meet the needs of the federal government.”
The company plans to sell in the private sector as well, but it is being launched in the government market first because it was designed to meet its needs.
One reason for the lack of variety on the Army’s list of approved Two-way Wireless E-mail Devices was that there was no formal process for adding products. Appriva was forced to do the testing themselves and then lobby for approval. Now there is a process in place, watch for new wireless platforms getting in on the lucrative contract.