The U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) just announced that they have replaced over 17,000 Blackberry phones with Apple's iPhones. While I can understand the reasoning behind replacing the BlackBerry phones, I don't quite get the logic on going to another closed system like Apple's iOS. It seems that the ICE did not want Android because of its open nature. The report says that the "strict control of the hardware platform and operating system" that Apple provides was a plus. Wasn't the U.S. government supposed to be a big supporter of open source?
What they are really saying here is that open source has security concerns. Because it is not locked down and instead open, this made it less desirable to ICE. This is the wrong message for open source in general and Android in particular. It is a mistake.
Let's analogize to Linux. If ICE had picked Mac computers over a Linux desktop because Apple's "strict control of the hardware platform and operating system," what would the Linux community in particular and the IT industry in general have said? Of course, Linux would give the agency many more choices for supply, design and choice. When did monolithic go back in style?
It is exactly the strict control they praised that could limit choices and hinder innovation. Not only that, it creates the ultimate vendor lock in. Just as ICE was locked into RIM while it became an irrelevant market player, it is now locking in to another closed platform. They will march to Apple's beat, whether ICE likes it or not. They spoke about the iPhone being independent of a service provider. If that was relevant, which platform offers more choices than Android?
Did they not take into account that Apple doesn't claim to be an enterprise company? That the iPhone is not optimized for the workplace, but a personal consumer item? Apple's track record shows that if you want enterprise features in the iPhone, they tell you it is not an enterprise product. Why would the ICE pick a closed consumer product? It just doesn't make sense.
What about price? Is someone going to tell me that the iPhone is now cheaper than the Android alternatives? Not in the universe I live in. How much more is the government going to spend on 17,000 iPhones then they would on those phones if they were Android?
The whole thing just doesn't make sense to me (if you couldn't tell that from what I have already written). The government is supposed to be encouraging the use of open source. Open source gives us more options and choices. It generally costs less. But, nevertheless, they pick the iPhone. Does the government's open source policy begin and end with Linux?
As co-founder and Managing Partner at The CISO Group, Alan Shimel is responsible for driving the vision and mission of the company. The CISO Group offers security consulting and PCI compliance management for the payment card industry. Prior to The CISO Group, Alan was the Chief Strategy Officer at StillSecure. Shimel was the public persona of StillSecure as it grew from start up to helping defend some of the largest and most sensitive networks in the world.
Shimel is an often-cited personality in the technology community and is a sought-after speaker at industry and government conferences and events. His commentary about the state of security, open source and life is followed closely by many industry insiders via his blog and podcast, "Ashimmy, After All These Years" (www.ashimmy.com). Alan is now also a regular contributor to The CISO Group’s security.exe blog and podcast. Follow him on Google.
Alan has helped build several successful technology companies by combining a strong business background with a deep knowledge of technology. His legal background, long experience in the field, and New York street smarts combine to form a unique personality.
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