ICE's damning iPhone solicitation

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Last week Immigration and Customs Enforcement posted a solicitation for more than 17,000 iPhones. While it's noteworthy that the Homeland Security agency is putting its weight behind Apple's iOS, it was the solicitation's open condemnation of BlackBerry and Android that got my attention.

Most solicitations stick to the basics--primarily the requirements and scope of the product or service. But ICE also had to justify why its solicitation was for iPhones, rather than a full competition open to a variety of mobile devices.

Instead of emphasizing what iPhone does and leaving it at that, ICE listed the reasons other options fell short. The agency said, after using BlackBerry for 8 years, Research in Motion has failed to innovate.

It also slammed Android for allowing multiple versions and variations of its operating system. "What is a strength for Google, is a risk for ICE," the agency wrote.

"All other products--including Microsoft's--were evaluated with a score of zero due to the risks associated with limited use within the marketplace," says the solicitation. It adds that the products are too new, unproven or rejected by consumers.

In the wake of the solicitation, Ed Snyder, an analyst at Charter Equity Research, told Reuters more and more agencies will be moving away from BlackBerry.

"They still have excellent security," said Snyder, "but if your handsets are a brick that no one wants to use it's going to drag down your business."

This is just the latest in a slew of bad PR for Android and BlackBerry, which are increasingly characterized as unsafe or stale mobile options for the enterprise.

On Oct. 22, security firm Trend Micro's quarterly mobile security report (.pdf) identified a six-fold increase in Android malware in just 3 months. Meanwhile, researchers at a German University found hundreds of apps on the Google Play store that provide access to users' personal information housed on Android devices.

As the various mobile operating systems compete for market share, iPhone appears to be gaining ground in the enterprise. How agencies react to recent news is anyone's guess. But if the Health and Human Services Department's recently published bring your own device strategy is any indication, Android for one has a major battle ahead. - Molly