iPhones for Congress Decision Pending

By October 28, 2008

Jeff Ventura, spokesperson for the Chief Administrative Office, has a simple reason why the Apple iPhone could someday be the official phone of Congress. He says, "a lot of people want the option to have them." The CAO, which oversees the communications systems for the House, has begun testing a small number of iPhones within its ranks to see if they are compatible with the working needs of lawmakers and staff. The popular device is famous for its intuitive and pleasurable interface but is still criticized for its touch-screen keyboard and slow data connection. The CAO will decide whether or not to give members the option of using the phones by this January. Most in the house will probably stay with the nearly 8,200 BlackBerry devices being actively used. If they do decide to switch to the iPhone, they will have to pay for it from the Member's Representational Allowance. If the expense is determined to be predominantly official, then it may even be reimbursed.

The price of individual iPhones will not be the only cost for this optional adoption. The BlackBerry Enterprise server that the House's email uses is not compatible with the iPhone. A new server is one of the components of the testing process to determine whether to make such an investment.

The BlackBerry system has been in use since 2000, and has become more efficient and reliable. In response to terrorist attacks in 2001, the House Administration Committee, in conjunction with the CAO, purchased BlackBerry devices for each member of Congress. Demand expanded to chiefs of staff and other workers.

With such widespread implementation and accepted usability for the BlackBerry platform, it seems unlikely that the iPhone decision will be made soon. While the usability of the iPhone is a common boon, weak fundamental executive functions such as flawed Microsoft Exchange support will ultimately delay this change.

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