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Fed agency dumps BlackBerry for iPhones

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency drops BlackBerry, says RIM smartphone not keeping up.

After eight years, the United States Immigration and Customers Enforcement agency has bought its last BlackBerry.

Saying that BlackBerry maker Research In Motion "can no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency," the agency said in a published document that it intends to buy iPhones for more than 17,600 employees. Although the $2.1 million amount of the purchases is relatively insignificant, it's the sort of publicity that RIM can do without.

"Of course, we are disappointed by this decision," Paul Lucier, VP, Government Solutions said in a statement. "I'm confident that BlackBerry is, and will continue to be, the best solution for government agencies.

Lucier pointed to a recent study by Strategy Analytics concluding that the BlackBerry was more cost-effective and secure than its rival product, adding that RIM supported a million government customers in North America. "We are working hard to make our new mobile computing platform, BlackBerry 10, meet the future needs of government customers," he added.

The news was first carried by Reuters.

In its statement, the agency, also known by the acronym ICE, said that Apple's management over both its hardware platform and underlying operating system made a better technology fit for its needs. "The iPhone services will allow these individuals to leverage reliable, mobile technology on a secure and manageable platform in furtherance of the agency's mission," ICE said in the statement.

RIM's upcoming smartphone, the BlackBerry 10, will be released sometime early next year. The company's CEO, Thorstein Heins, has been trotting around the globe these last few months to talk up the upcoming product launch with carriers, developers, and consumers in a bid to generate interest in the announcement. In an interview with CNET, Heins said the company intends to stick with a faster product cadence than in the past.