By Alexandra Burlacu | May 19, 2013 12:01 PM EDT
The Pentagon cleared Apple devices for use on its networks, paving the way for the Cupertino tech giant to compete with Samsung and BlackBerry for military sales.
The Defense Department announced in a recent statement that it approved the use of Apple devices running the iOS 6 mobile platform, which means great news for the iPhone and iPad maker.
In other words, the Defense Department can now distribute iPhones and iPads rocking iOS 6 to its employees. While that doesn't guarantee Apple will actually get contracts, it is a notable step forward in this direction.
The decision to clear iOS 6 devices for military use may spur a three-way race for relevance in a market long-dominated by Canadian company BlackBerry, formerly known as Research in Motion (RIM). The Pentagon approved Samsung devices back on May 2, and BlackBerry 10 smartphones and BlackBerry PlayBook tablets got the nod as well.
The Pentagon previously relied on BlackBerry devices, which consistently received federal certification for protecting highly sensitive data. According to the Defense Department, the agency currently has more than 600,000 mobile devices, including 470,000 BlackBerry devices, 41,000 Apple products and 8,700 devices running on Google's popular Android mobile operating system. Many of those Apple and Android products in use, however, are only connected to military networks for testing.
Approval of Apple iOS Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) means that government-issues iOS 6 devices get clearance for use when connecting to Department of Defense (DoD) networks within current mobility pilots or future mobile device management framework.
"The release of the Apple iOS 6 STIG is a major stride in building a multi-vendor environment, supporting a diverse selection of devices and operating systems," the agency said in a statement on Friday, May 17. "This STIG and the recently-approved STIGs for the BlackBerry and Samsung Knox operating systems demonstrate DISA's commitment to validate a range of devices that meet DoD security standards so the bets technology is available to achieve DoD mission requirements."
Samsung, meanwhile, worked with the U.S. National Security Agency to develop a secure version of Google's Android operating system, adding multiple layers of software and hardware protection. According to the company, the Samsung Galaxy S4 launched back in April will be the first smartphone to use the new system known as Knox.
The military said it wants its employees to enjoy enough flexibility to use commercial products on its networks and it even plans to create a military app store. It also reportedly plans to hire a contractor to build a system that may accommodate as many as 8 million devices.
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