BlackBerry Still Being Used, Despite Reports, DOD Says

BlackBerry and the Pentagon have put to rest reports that BlackBerry use at the DOD was giving way to Apple products.

Department of Defense officials have denied that they are scrapping support for the BlackBerry platform. Instead, they’re moving to support a mixed environment of devices.

"The department is aware of recent reporting that asserts it is dropping BlackBerry. This reporting is in error," Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesperson for the DOD, told PC Mag.

"The department recently released its mobility strategy and supporting implementation plan," Pickart continued, "which clarifies we are moving towards a mobile management capability that supports a variety of devices, to include BlackBerry."

Tech site Electronista earlier reported that the government sequester was holding up an order for 120,000 Apple iPads, 100,000 iPad Minis, 200,000 iPod Touch devices and 210,000 iPhones.

It also reported March 7 that the sequester was forcing the DOD to make a mandatory 11 percent cut, and so it was scrapping a new program to pilot the BlackBerry Z10—Blackberry's slow-to-arrive smartphone that is the first to run the company’s new BlackBerry 10 software.

Sources, said the site, described the program as "low-hanging fruit" and "easy to cut."

"We're almost done with the iOS and Android platform testing procedure, so that's fine," the source added. "BlackBerry is going to have to suck it up and not get properly tested for a while. Maybe never."

The DOD's official plan, Pickart told PC Mag, "is to establish a department-wide mobile enterprise solution that permits the use of the latest commercial technology, such as smartphones and tablets, and the development of an enterprise mobile device management capability and application store to support approximately 100,000 multivendor devices by February 2014."

BlackBerry, responding to the Electronista reports, said in a statement:

Our work with the U.S. Department of Defense is going well and the U.S. Department of Defense is moving forward with testing of BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 and the new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone. We are currently working with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and anticipate Security Technical Implementation Guides (STIG) and Security Requirement Guide (SRG) approval for the BlackBerry Device Service, BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry PlayBook by early April. BlackBerry was the first to go through the new SRG process by the Defense Department and will be the first to successfully come out of it.

The DOD's support is, no doubt, highly important to BlackBerry, which ahead of BlackBerry 10's delayed release saw several key customers, even in regulated industries, defect to competitors. With BlackBerry 10, the Z10, and a Q10 smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard that will arrive later this year, the company is in the process of clawing its way back uphill. Once a smartphone market leader, it now holds about a 3 percent share of the global market, to Android's 70 percent.

Worldwide, the BlackBerry Z10 has seen better-than-expected sales, according to CEO Thorsten Heins. AT&T, the first of the U.S. carriers to offer the phone, will begin selling it March 22—just as BlackBerry's new app store has surpassed 100,000 BlackBerry 10 applications, the company announced March 21.

"The response to the BlackBerry 10 platform and applications has been outstanding. Customers are thrilled with the applications already available and the catalog just keeps growing," Martyn Mallick, vice president of global alliances, said in a statement.

BlackBerry leaders, as market share dwindled, have been promising a new paradigm, and with the Z10 they've delivered it. The smartphone has received strong reviews, but now it remains to be seen whether consumers in the United States—a tell-tale market for device success—will buy it.