BlackBerry knocked again as another US agency opts for the iPhone

blackberry-os7-handsets-august-2011We don’t know exactly what the former Research In Motion co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have been doing since they stepped down from the top job last month, but if they want to keep their stress levels down, it’s probably wiser for them to take regular strolls in the local park than spend too much time reading the news.

According to a Bloomberg report on Tuesday, the US government’s main procurement agency, the General Services Administration (GSA), will begin issuing its employees with iPhones alongside Blackberry devices.

GSA spokesperson Deborah Ruiz told Bloomberg that any of its more than 12,000 employees will be able to ask for Apple or Android devices if the phones have applications that will allow them to work more efficiently.

RIM says it still has more than one million government customers though with this latest announcement from the GSA, the company’s new CEO Thorsten Heins will be more than a little concerned, especially as the switch seems to be part of a growing trend.

Last week, for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — a government agency concerned with research into weather, oceans and fisheries — said that starting in May it would begin giving its workers iPhones, replacing the currently used BlackBerry devices.

A couple of days before that, oil giant Halliburton said it had also made the decision to move away from RIM’s handsets in favor of those made by other market leaders. Credit Suisse, Barclays Capital and Standard Chartered have also made similar announcements.

While sales of BlackBerry handsets are actually doing pretty well in emerging markets, they fell a painful 45 percent in the US in the last quarter. If more US businesses follow in the footsteps of Halliburton and others, things will only get worse for RIM in the US market.

RIM has suffered recently in the face of tough competition from Apple’s iPhone and devices powered by Google’s Android OS. It’s also had major problems trying to get consumers interested in its PlayBook tablet and angered many of its BlackBerry customers last October when it took three days to fix a service outage.

It seems that the company’s future success rests largely on its next-generation of phones running the BlackBerry 10 operating system, expected later this year. Between now and then, RIM executives will need to find a way to stem the tide of businesses switching to alternative mobile devices.

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