iPad Wins on Security


by Samuel Greengard

Once upon a time, all personal computers were standalone devices that didn't connect to anything. And when I say anything, I mean anything. If you're 30 or younger, I know that understanding this concept is extraordinarily challenging. But, really, there was a time when devices were islands unto themselves.

I don't think anyone wants to go back there. Mailing 8-inch or 5-inch floppy disks and waiting three days for someone to get it was a total pain.

But, in retrospect, there were certain advantages to this approach. Most notably the lack of security problems that exist in today's interconnected world. The Internet, USB, FireWire, card slots and DVD drives make it ridiculously easy to lose or steal credit card numbers or offload The Secret Sauce.

That's one of the reasons why devices like the iPad are so interesting -- no USB port and no physical way to get data off the device. That is, unless you want to hand scribble whatever is visible on the screen onto a scrap of paper or snap photos from your smartphone.

There is no perfect security solution, but the ability to monitor and control what data moves onto and off a device over the air--using mobile device management tools to enforce policies and block illegal activities--is actually a step forward.

Apple, as usual, has created a brilliant interface, along with superior usability that has the entire world going gaga. It has created a device that is excellent at delivering the promise of tablet computing.

But there's another reason why formerly Apple-averse CIOs are adopting iPads at an rapid clip, with close to 90 percent of Fortune 100 companies are testing or using iPads, according to industry estimates: They're more secure than their rivals.

While Android and RIM Playbook devices offer USB ports and MicroSD card slots--and marketers tout this as an advantage--a couple of CIOs I've spoken to recently are thrilled to return to the port-free days of yesteryear. They're even willing to accept lower powered devices with less memory and pay a somewhat higher price as a trade-off for simpler security.

We're conditioned to want more and more features on the devices we use. Almost every hardware and software vendor caters to this desire with the promise of greater flexibility, versatility and agility. But, as Apple as clearly proven, the ability to go backward can actually be a huge step forward.