BRUSSELS/HELSINKI (Reuters) - The European Union Commission rejected Research in Motion’s BlackBerry in favor of Apple’s iPhone and HTC smartphones, a spokesman said, amid a spreading row about BlackBerry security.
The EU’s executive arm, which employs more than 32,000 people, reviewed its choice of smartphone against a number of criteria, including security and financial impact, when it deployed a new technology platform in 2008.
A number of governments have recently threatened to curb use of the BlackBerry on security grounds, with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday joining the United Arab Emirates, India and Kuwait.
Governments are concerned they cannot monitor BlackBerry traffic, because unlike rivals Nokia and Apple, Research in Motion (RIM) controls its own networks, which handle encrypted messages through server centres in Canada and Britain.
“Following this evaluation, the HTC and the iPhones emerged at the most suitable platforms for voice/mail-centric mobile devices. As a result, the Commission currently supports these two platforms,” the spokesman wrote in an email.
Previously, the Commission had used PDAs made by Qtek, now owned by Taiwan’s HTC. The spokesman said about 2,500 staff were affected, and that all the criteria — which also included resilience and administration overheads — had weighed equally.
RIM’s Chief Technology Officer David Yach told Reuters on Tuesday he believed governments were unlikely to follow through on their threats because state officials themselves depended heavily on BlackBerries.
But the once-iconic devices are no longer the indispensible business tools they once seemed, with many corporations opening up to allow alternatives like the iPhone as staff demand the same performance from their work tools as their leisure devices.
British bank Standard Chartered said earlier this year it was giving its staff the option to replace the BlackBerry with the iPhone, a move that could eventually result in thousands of bankers switching.
And many top French government ministers have been issued specially encrypted smartphones after a French security agency recommended that cabinet ministers and President Nicolas Sarkozy stop using BlackBerries due to security concerns.
RIM on Tuesday unveiled a new BlackBerry aimed at wooing consumers away from the iPhone and other rivals. Analysts said the Torch did not represent a major advance, but would help RIM catch up in terms of consumer-friendly features.
Nokia had 40 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter, with RIM in second place at 19 percent and Apple at 14 percent, according to communications research firm Strategy Analytics.
Reporting by John O'Donnell and Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Louise Heavens