Another Blow For BlackBerry As New Zealand Cops Pick iOS Devices

In another setback for BlackBerry’s key government business, the New Zealand police force has chosen iOS devices over smartphones and tablets running competing operating systems. Kiwi cops will be kitted out with iOS devices after spending nearly a year testing iPhones and iPads against models running BlackBerry and Android, reports the National Business Review.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Police Minister Anne Tolley announced that 6,000 frontline officers will receive an iPhone, while 3,900 will also get an iPad, in the initial rollout. The decision came after 100 staff members spent 11 months testing devices.

New Zealand police chief information officer Stephen Crombie said that Apple’s products were chosen because it is easier to upgrade to newer iOS phones and tablets:

“Based on frontline officer feedback from the trial (over 100 staff in four districts trialled smartphones, laptops and tablets over an 11-month period) the preferred devices are the iPhone as smartphone and iPad for the tablet. The approach used to develop the applications means Police can move to other devices with relative ease as technology changes.”

The initial rollout over the next three months will cost $4.3 million NZ, or about $3.75 million USD. In the next 10 years, the program will cost $159 million NZ ($134.7 million USD), but the police claim that the investment will reap productivity benefits of $305 million NZ ($258.5 million USD) over the decade.

The move comes as a chunk of the New Zealand police force switch carriers from Telecom to Vodafone. Vodafone won a 10-year outsourced deal, which represents new business for the company. Crombie told the National Business Review that Telecom’s Gen-i division, which had previously been the force’s sole carrier, will continue to supply mobile services for operational management and administrative staff. Over the next year, however, Crombie said that police will be “working to determine how many of these mobiles will move to the arrangement with Vodafone.”

The New Zealand police force’s decision is yet another setback for BlackBerry in Oceania. Earlier this month, Australia’s Treasury Department said it would replace 250 BlackBerry devices with the iPhone 5 after the Defence Signals Directorate certified iOS for government use. The rollout is expected to be completed by the end of March. The Treasury Department’s chief information officer said the decision was made in spite of BB10’s launch because “BlackBerry has pretty limited capability. With the new one being launched, it’s almost too late. Maybe it’ll catch up, maybe it won’t.”

More government agencies are switching away from BlackBerry devices–something that should worry the company formerly known as Research In Motion if it wants to hold onto its core government business. Last October, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chose the iPhone as its new mobile platform, with 17,676 ICE employees receiving iPhones instead of BlackBerrys. The agency followed the Federal Air Marshall Service, the Coast Guard, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Transportation Security Administration, the Air Force, and the Federal Aviation Administration as U.S. federal agencies that had either switched away from BlackBerry or started offering their employees alternative devices.

A recent Gartner report showed that in Q4 2012, BlackBerry held just 3.5% of the global market share for smartphones, down from 8.8% in the same period a year earlier.

BlackBerry seems well aware of the problem-earlier this month its vice president of government solutions, Paul Lucier, told Government Technology that BlackBerry’s stringent security standards inadvertently drove customers away.

“They locked [BlackBerry devices] down so much that people were really only using them for email, very basic features. As the BYOD trend started to take off across enterprise, government included, it posed a big challenge. People were comparing a brand-new device on the market that had all the bells and whistles with a locked-down BlackBerry,” Lucier said.