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Fri, 29 Jan 2010

Is the writing on the wall for general purpose computing ?

The Apple iPad announcement set the interwebs alight, and there is no shortage of people blogging or tweeting about how it will or wont change their lives. I'm going to ignore those topics almost completely to make one of those predictions that serve mainly to let people laugh at me later for being so totally wrong..

Heres my vision.. Its not just the Hipsters and college kids who get iPads, its the execs and CEO's. They are happy for a short while using it just as an E-Reader, movie watcher and couch based web browser, but the app store keeps growing to support the new form factor. Apps like iWork for iPad (at only $10) means that sooner or later they are relatively comfortable spreadsheeting or document pushing on their iPad.. It doesn't take too long for them to realize that they don't have much heavier computing requirements anyway and besides.. the instant on experience is what they always wanted..

Now despite the fact that it didn't take people like taviso or charlie miller long to exploit the iPhone, the devices security model does present a security benefit over the traditional end user computing model. Sand-boxed Applications, signed code restrictions and a rudimentary app store check means that the device has not been hammered with malware or exploited en-masse. Now the CEO hears the CFO complaining about his latest desktop virus episode, or patch-day drama. "If only your desktop could work like my tablet..". Apple currently run OS X, and iPhoneOS for iPad and iPhoneOS for Touch/iPhones. Why not a version of iPhone OS that runs on its desktops ?

You get the App store and access to all the apps across all your devices.. and its pretty, and it just works..

At this point i have to mis-quote Martin Niemöller : First they came for the mp3 players, and i did not speak out - because i never really had one before anyway. Then they came for the cell phones, and i did not speak out - because it was really cool. Then they came for the tablets, and i did not speak out - because it was just a tablet. Then they came for our desktops - and it made perfect sense...

Security practitioners have long lamented the fact that we seem to be losing the war. Too much runs on our machines and the surface area is too large to defend and bad code is being written and deployed faster than we can test it.. Moving iPhoneOS to the desktop allows a contained, controlled computing platform that has the potential to be pushed through the organization from the top down. I think this is an important difference. Techies and Geeks can debate the pros and cons of wireless for ages, but it just takes one member of exco to need it and wireless deployments will happen. CEO's and execs with iPads will push cloud and tablet computing at a quick pace too. Despite the relatively tame initial response to the iPad, the stars seem well aligned for this to be an inflection point that leaves us with less computer and more consumer electronic devices.

Of course all this comes at a cost.. You trade some measure of control and surrender to the will of our Cupertino overlords..

-shrug- or maybe im just smoking my socks... :>

/mh