* ICE to test BB10 platform and devices - spokeswoman
* Agency had recently outlined plans to move to iPhone
* ICE says not backing away from either Apple or RIM
* Announcement sparks yet another rally in RIM shares
(Adds RIM executive comment)
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO, Dec 13 A U.S. federal agency that has
been phasing out the BlackBerry in favor of the iPhone said on
Thursday it would test Research In Motion's new BB10
smartphones, fueling a fresh spurt in RIM's shares ahead of the
new line's launch.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an investigative
arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will begin a
pilot program early next year to test the new line and the
software to manage them on its network.
The news, which sent RIM shares up more than 6 percent on
Thursday morning, extends a weeks-long rally that has pushed the
stock to its highest close in more than seven months.
Investors have warmed to the stock - which had lost about 75
percent of its value in the last two years - on evidence that
the make-or-break BB10 line is gaining traction with RIM's
bread-and-butter customers in the weeks before its Jan. 30
RIM, a one-time pioneer in the smartphone industry,
has lost market share in recent years to Apple's iPhone
and devices powered by Google's market-leading Android
operating system. Even RIM's core business customers, who once
used BlackBerry devices almost exclusively, have been defecting
BB10 represents Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM's best hope of
persuading both corporations and government users to stick with
its smartphones, long valued for their strong security features.
RIM promises the new line, powered by the BlackBerry 10
operating system, will perform more smoothly and with more speed
than previous BlackBerrys.
ICE is one of the customers it hopes to win over.
"Our priority is to ensure that ICE and all government
agencies understand the full capabilities of the new BlackBerry
10 platform and how it can help them meet their mobility needs
today and in the future," said Scott Totzke, RIM's senior vice
president of BlackBerry Security.
ICE in October announced plans to end a long relationship
with RIM, saying that its aging lineup of BlackBerry devices
could "no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the
agency." At the time, ICE said it would buy iPhones for about
A spokeswoman for the agency said on Thursday ICE is not
backing away from either Apple or RIM.
"Given the nature of a rapidly evolving marketplace for
mobile computing and the rising expectations of our users ...
the pilot with RIM is a prudent technology management practice,"
said Barbara Gonzalez, the agency's press secretary.
Gonzalez said the agency is developing mobile applications
for law enforcement and it is looking into how BlackBerry 10 may
be able to provide mobility solutions in the future.
"ICE and RIM have had a long and good relationship, and we
plan to continue that relationship," she said.
Last month, RIM said it had won a much-coveted U.S.
government security clearance for its BlackBerry 10 devices and
its new enterprise management platform.
The company said it was the first time a BlackBerry product
had won Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2
certification ahead of launch.
The certification, from the National Institute of Standards
and Technology, is one of the minimum criteria for products used
by U.S. government agencies and other regulated industries that
store, transfer, share and disseminate sensitive information.
The stamp of approval gives many of RIM's security-conscious
enterprise clients confidence that data on smartphones running
BlackBerry 10 can be properly secured and encrypted.
RIM, which has begun beta testing its mobile device
management software BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 with a
handful of key enterprise customers, said ICE will be one of the
first government organizations to pilot the BlackBerry 10
RIM shares closed on Thursday 4.1 percent higher at $13.86,
after rising as high as $14.16 on the Nasdaq. Its Toronto-listed
shares ended the day 3.7 percent higher at C$13.63.
A day earlier RIM shares rallied after favorable comments by
Eric Jackson, a long-time bear on RIM's stock. In a piece
published on Thestreet.com, he wrote that he now has a long
position in RIM, dropping his bets that the stock would drop.
Jackson said the positive sentiment building in RIM's stock
is unlikely to dissipate any time soon. He said many of RIM's 80
million subscribers are likely to upgrade to the BB10 when the
new devices are launched.
The stock has more than doubled in price since Sept. 24,
when RIM's shares were trading slightly above the $6
(Editing by Dan Grebler, Muralikumar Anantharaman, Andrew Hay
and Phil Berlowitz)