BlackBerrys Crash Too Much for NTSB; Agency Shopping for iPhones

Published on November 21, 2012
by John Paczkowski

The National Transportation Safety Board has purchased its last BlackBerry.

Saying that Research In Motion’s BlackBerrys “have been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate,” the NTSB has begun soliciting bids to replace them all with Apple’s iPhone 5.

“The NTSB requires effective, reliable and stable communication capabilities to carry out its primary investigative mission and to ensure employee safety in remote locations,” the agency said in a notice posted to the Federal Business Opportunities Web site. It noted that the iPhone 5 was a better candidate than the BlackBerry to deliver those capabilities because it is more reliable, and also because the phones are compatible with the iPads it has already deployed.

The NTSB is the latest in a series of big government agencies to abandon the BlackBerry as the smartphone of choice. Earlier this year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency also switched to iPhone. But the NTSB’s defection cuts a little bit deeper because of its open criticism of the BlackBerry’s reliability, a feature RIM has long touted as one of the device’s biggest enterprise selling points. Indeed, it continues to do so today.

Reached for comment, Paul Lucier, RIM’s VP of government solutions, said the BlackBerry is as reliable as it ever was. “Government organizations globally have trusted the reliability and security of BlackBerry for over a decade. They can continue to do so,” he said, adding that RIM still has plenty of government contracts — one million in North America alone.

That may be so, but there’s a clear trend emerging here, and it certainly doesn’t bode well for RIM.

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