According to CNN’s ever-informative anonymous sources, the US is very close to rolling out Government-issue Android handsets, first to soldiers and then to federal agencies. Down the line, it is likely that local governments and even large businesses will benefit from the new technology being developed by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA, for those not in the know, happens to be the government group—a facet of the Department of Defense—partially responsible for GPS and the Internet as we know it today.
After reviewing the field of smartphone options, DARPA decided to go with Android because, “Android was more cooperative in supporting some of the capabilities that we wanted to support in the operating system, whereas Apple was more averse,” according to Angelos Stavrou, an information-security director at George Mason University, who is working on the government project as a contractor. Google provides the Android source code freely online, whereas Apple—it was not mentioned if Microsoft or RIM were approached—would not allow even DAPRA unfettered access to its base code.
These phones will not be government-built or government-commissioned devices, unlike the GI Dell Streak 5. Instead, the Feds will have their own custom, ultra-secure build of Android that they can install on virtually any of the plethora of available Android devices.
Reportedly, there is a version of Android ready to be shipped out to troops which is secure enough to store classified documents, but not to send them over a cell network. A version capable of sending top-secret dispatches is in the works and is expected to be ready in the coming months. From the sounds of things, this is not set to be an all-work-and-no-play device. According to Mr. Stavrou, the first priority is obviously the ability to make voice calls, but recreational use of the phones is not out of the question.
“People want to play ‘Angry Birds,’ and we do want our people to be able to download ‘Angry Birds’… [But] If a clock application gets your GPS and transmits something over the network, that’s not something that we would want to support.”
“Voice is the immediate need,” Schromsky said. “These devices are awesome. They can do so many things, but at the end of the day, I still need to make a voice call.”