(Bloomberg ) The U.S. Defense Department said today it plans to open its networks by next February to about 100,000 mobile phones and tablet computers made by companies such as Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc. (GOOG)
The move may pose a threat to BlackBerry (BBRY), the Pentagon's biggest supplier of smart phones. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company has lost market share to competitors and aims to make a comeback with its new BlackBerry 10 phone. The device will go on sale in the U.S. next month.
The Pentagon said it wants employees to have the flexibility to use commercial products on classified and unclassified networks. It plans to create a military mobile applications store and hire a contractor to build a system that may eventually handle as many as 8 million devices.
"This is not simply about embracing the newest technology –- it is about keeping the department's workforce relevant in an era when information accessibility and cybersecurity play a critical role in mission success," Teri Takai, the department's chief information officer, said in a statement.
The Pentagon has more than 600,000 mobile devices, including 470,000 BlackBerrys, 41,000 Apple products and 8,700 platforms running Google's Android operating system, according to the statement.
The military has relied on BlackBerrys, and it has been testing the Apple and Google Android devices.
The networks will remain closed to personal wireless devices for now, according to the Defense Department.
The recent bring-your-own-device trend in the civilian workplace "presents many compelling benefits," though existing Pentagon policies and security vulnerabilities "prevent the adoption of devices that are unapproved and procured outside of official government acquisition," Takai said in an attachment to a memo dated Feb. 15 and released today.