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US federal agency to test RIM's new BlackBerry 10

A US federal agency will test RIM's new BlackBerry 10 operating system and smartphone range when it launches early next year.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which recently outlined plans to ditch BlackBerry handsets in favour of Apple's iPhone, will begin a pilot program on RIM's new line of BlackBerry 10 smartphones and Blackberry Enterprise Service 10, the company announced.

RIM is hoping to revive the BlackBerry range as a firm favourite among businesses and governments. The company has struggled in recent years as consumers have moved away from BlackBerry smartphones and embraced Apple's iPhone range and Android powered smartphones - and many business customers have now followed suit.

In October, ICE announced that it would replace BlackBerry handsets used by 17, 600 employees with Apple's iPhone, stating that RIM 's aging line-up could "no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency". RIM is hoping the pilot may be a chance for the company to persuade ICE to reverse that decision.

The news of the pilot shows that the BlackBerry 10 OS and smartphone range, due to be launched 30 January, are attracting positive interest, claims the company. RIM shares closed at their highest price in seven months yesterday.

Experts predict that, having long since been a favourite of government agencies and corporations for its strong security and features, the survival of the BlackBerry brand may well be determined by how it is received by enterprise customers; an issue ITProPortal recently explored.

To find out more on the upcoming OS, read our Hands On with BlackBerry 10.