Cambridgeshire Constabulary plans to replace thousands of Blackberry smartphones with 8,000 mobile devices running the latest Windows Phone operating system.
It is expected that the devices - including the Nokia 1520 ‘phablet’ for frontline staff and the 930 for executives - will be rolled out by the end of the year. Budget Nokia 635 handsets will also be rolled out to more staff members, while Lenovo devices are also being considered following its buy-out of Motorola from Google.
According to Ian Bell, head of ITC at Cambridgeshire Constabulary, upgrades to the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, unveiled at Microsoft’s Build conference in April this year, were key to the decision to replace its 4,000 Blackberry handsets.
“I do see [Windows Phone] as a viable proposition now. That is why we have been slow to progress our mobility roll-out from a smartphone handset perspective in the same way we have rolled out slates and laptops,” he told ComputerworldUK at a Microsoft event in London today.
“The security hasn’t been right [with Windows Phone in the past], but it absolutely is now. Mobile device management providers have worked their socks off to be ready for 8.1 Phone release, and with the new encryption and new application VPN, it makes this platform become viable from a public sector perspective, while it probably never had been in the past.
"It is enterprise-ready as far as we are concerned.”
The devices will also be rolled out across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire police forces after they agreed to jointly support a government initiative aimed at freeing up officers’ time through the use of mobile technology.
Bell said that replacing its estate of Blackberry 8700 and 9210 devices with more modern touch-screen enabled devices will support the police forces’ in this goal.
“We have chosen to move away from Blackberry, primarily for the user experience - we want our cops to have flexibility in their working life,” he said. “From an enterprise device management perspective Blackberry Enterprise Server works great, but the devices are crumbling around us.”
He added: “As more and more cops retire and new ones come through, their interaction isn’t about email and calendars in the same way we have done with Blackberry.”
Furthermore, the ability to access ‘universal apps’ that can seamlessly move from one device to another will also help front line officers, as the police force already uses a variety of hardware running Microsoft’s latest operating system, including desktops, laptops and slates from Lenovo.
“Certainly from an efficiency perspective we want our cops to be able to interact with these apps as quickly and as seamlessly as possible and to get the pertinent information in front of them that they need there and then. “
“We want to define the requirements to change from the state where we are very transactional to a transformed digitised organisation. These apps will absolutely allow us to do that.”