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NYPD head of IT doubles down on Windows smartphone idiocy

But, but, but they gave them to us for free, says tech boss

The woman responsible for a catastrophic decision to equip New York police officers with Windows smartphones, all of which are now being dumped, has doubled-down on her idiocy.

"We assessed that the Windows platform would be most effective at achieving our goal of securing 36,000 devices that would be used for sensitive law enforcement operations," argues Deputy Commissioner for Information Technology Jessica Tisch in a blog post, somewhat ignoring the fact that Microsoft stopped supporting them just two years later.

Tisch then embarks on a hilariously defensive justification of her decision, arguing that everything is fine because Microsoft apparently gave the phones to the NYPD for free. "The contract entered provided for the smartphones at no cost. It also allowed for the NYPD to replace the smartphones with devices of our choosing two years later, also at no cost," she argues.

She then pretends that the decision to move to iPhones instead of the Lumia 830 and Lumia 640 XL phones she chose is because of a "continual review of the evolution of mobile platforms" and "improvements in Apple controls."

Pushing the cost issue again, she notes that "our smartphone initiative is 45 per cent under budget. Based on current rate of spending, we expect to stretch what was initially budgeted at two years of spending to more than four years."

And then she defends the smartphone program overall, arguing that they have "made our cops smarter, faster, and more agile in their response to 911 calls, with response times down more than eight percent ... the smartphone program has made the NYPD, already New York's Finest, even finer. Sure doesn't sound like a 'useless smartphone,' does it?"

So, um, about that

Except of course, in defending the indefensible, Tisch ignores what the real problem is: she personally decided, over the objections of others, to go with the Windows-based Lumia phones when everyone else argued that it made much more sense to go with Android or iOS devices.

At the time, Windows phones held less than three per cent of the market, and every IT administrator in the United States would have advised against going with a Windows phone.

Claiming that the program came with no cost actively ignores the fact that the NYPD has developed a dozen custom apps for Windows 8.1 which will now be scrapped and new apps will have to be created for the new iPhones. That will not come without significant cost.

And, of course, there is the enormous cost and hassle associated with taking back phones from tens of thousands of cops, giving them new ones and getting them up to speed on the new phones and apps. In short, it was a monumental cock-up and everyone knows it.

It's also on Ms Tisch's head. NYPD sources have already laid the blame at her feet, with one telling the New York Post: "She drove the whole process," and making the blunt observation that "nobody purchases 36,000 phones based on the judgment of one person. I don't care if you're Jesus fucking Christ, you get a panel of experts."

A terror

During the actual launch of the program, then-police commissioner Bill Bratton explicitly referenced the fact that there had been arguments over which phone to go with and that Tisch has forced Windows-based devices.

"She's a terror if she doesn't get her way, so I usually let her get her way," Bratton said. "So she's certainly getting her way with this technology."

Here's our bet based on years of following Microsoft and its sales people's efforts to get its technology into establishments: Tisch went with the Lumias because Microsoft offered the phones for free. Why for free? Because Microsoft was desperate to establish its Windows phones in a market that was rapidly running away from it.

Tisch saw huge cost savings and went for it, pushing the decision through everyone else arguing for Android or iOS devices. But the gamble didn't pay off – because Windows phones suck – and now Tisch is left holding the baby.

Her blog post justification only compounds the problem. She doesn't deny a single thing: from the fact that she was behind the decision; that others thought it was the wrong decision; that the phones are being scrapped; and that the NYPD is moving to iPhones starting next month.

Whether the dreadful purchasing decision is enough to get her the boot, we will have to wait and see. Not that being fired will cause her too many problems: being the daughter of billionaire James S Tisch, whose father founded Loews stores, does have its benefits. ®

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