NTSB to Ditch BlackBerrys, Cites ‘Unreliability’

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Struggling Research in Motion received another vote of no confidence this week with the news that the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board plans to drop BlackBerry smartphones in favor of Apple’s iPhones.

RIM has in recent months seen its once enviable enterprise presence chipped away as government agencies and private companies like Yahoo have increasingly been moving away from support for its BlackBerrys.

But the latest rebuke may be the most damaging yet, because the NTSB plainly stated that it wasn’t switching to iPhone support because employees preferred Apple’s handsets but rather because BlackBerrys and RIM’s proprietary data network weren’t performing up to snuff.

BlackBerrys “have been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate,” read a recent NTSB notice posted on a Federal Business Opportunities board where bids for government work are solicited, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“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 bid solicitation said, further noting that the agency’s current deployment of iPads made a move to the iPhone a natural fit, according to the WSJ.

Meanwhile, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins admitted to Wired in an interview published this week that the Canadian smartphone maker “needed to get its act together.”

Despite his company’s recent woes, Heins remained confident there was light at the end of a long tunnel that has seen RIM hemorrhage market and mindshare to Apple and Google, maker of the market-leading Android mobile operating system.

There is some legitimacy to his optimism, though Heins appeared to be well aware that turning things around at RIM remained an uphill battle.

RIM last week added free voice calling over Wi-Fi to its current BlackBerry 7 handsets and has announced it will release its long-awaited BlackBerry 10 OS on Jan. 10. The new platform integrates the QNX software acquired in 2010 and adds a number of unique features, including a way to partition off personal and business profiles on a single phone, that RIM hopes will rekindle excitement about its phones.

That’s all well and good—RIM long ago ceded its status as the maker of “it” devices to the competition, so making up ground in that arena is a must. More troubling for the company is the NTSB’s apparent reference to back-end problems with its data network, long regarded by BlackBerry loyalists as the best available, particularly for business provisioning purposes.

If RIM’s products are being perceived by commercial customers as more finicky than the carrier-reliant, consumer-targeted devices running iOS and Android, the Canadian firm’s days may truly be numbered.

By Damon Poeter, PCMag


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