One year since the Apple iPad was launched and the tablet became ubiquitous

Opinion by Dan Raywood

It hardly seems like a year, but 12 months ago today Steve Jobs stood on a stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and said 'we call it the iPad'.

It hardly seems like a year, but 12 months ago today Steve Jobs stood on a stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and said ‘we call it the iPad'.

Since then the device has become a byword for workplace challenges, with its iOS platform proving to be a challenge when it comes to device security and creating an audit trail for data.

There could an argument that as the Apple operating system is locked (unless you choose to jailbreak your device) there is no security risk to it, however the iPad is seen less as a larger version of the iPhone and more as a tablet PC, putting it into the same league as a netbook – and would you leave that unguarded?

David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab UK, said: “Right now, there is no direct threat from malware on the iPad, although there is the potential danger that they may act as a carrier within the business.

“However, there are wide implications for businesses and two of the key issues in IT security today lie in: the mobile nature of business; and the wide array of devices used in the enterprise. Staff are now equipped to work on-the-go, anywhere from the office, home, airports, etc. and it is essential for businesses to develop a ‘follow-me security strategy' that includes securing staff and the devices they use, wherever they may be.

“The growing number of devices used by staff across the enterprise poses a big challenge. What devices are allowed in the organisation? What applications can be used? What sort of connectivity is permitted? How is data secured, including corporate data stored on personal devices? The growing popularity of the iPad means that it cannot be ignored by IT security. It is one more piece of the patchwork quilt that is corporate security.”

The main marking of the first anniversary of the iPad will come in April when it was officially launched, but for a device that could be described as Apple's first to not be greeted with universal acclaim, there is no doubt that it has changed the world of computing completely.

After all, from the Macintosh to the iPhone, taking in the iMac, iPod and Macbook, all have been met with acclaim but the iPad is probably the first that was not considered a must-have device. It sits in the middle between the iPhone and laptop market, with its ease of access to the internet, application capabilities (a Sky Sports application that allows you to watch live football) and portability its major unique selling points.

However there is criticism of its lack of security, with only an optional password protecting the device physically and no ability to add anti-virus software. Particularly challenging when you consider that the Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg used his iPad to work from when he was stranded in New York.

James Lyne, senior technologist at Sophos said that he felt that Apple had injected energy in to the long standing tablet market and whilst the iPad has been a popular device, it will be interesting to see how Apple fairs as the raft of Android and Windows 7 tablets (with more instant compatibility with organisations systems, security and processes) come in to play in 2011.

Asked what we have learned from a year with the iPad, Lyne said: “For me, it's the fact that people are not as attached to a conventional notion of a computer as many would assume. For many years, companies like Microsoft have had their hands tied by backwards compatibility, unable to make radical shifts in the workflows or architecture to correct long standing flaws.

“The iPad shows how quickly large numbers of users can shift to new doctrines. I would suggest that it is a reflection of a change in the entire attitude to computing. We all used to run a mile at the prospect of patches and version changes, now many of us revel in applying updates on the iPad to see what new features have appeared and are perfectly used to logging in to online services where the entire user interface has changed.

“Let us not forget though, as we reflect on the first year of iPad that this device has not been without attacks. It is critical that we do not forget the iPad is a computer and that it can be compromised. As more of us place interesting data on the device, cyber criminals are going to focus on it more too. Keeping the device patched and up to date is important and the inability to patch the core OS of the device wirelessly is still a problematic restriction.”

In terms of the future, Lyne said that presentation capabilities and office working are quickly improving, but getting data on and off of the device is still clunky and the integration with the enterprise and the control of data is still limited, which could be risky with the more conventional security built in tablets coming on the market this year.

“With competition building, hopefully year two of the iPad will deliver more innovative consumer computing and enhance the practicality of the device for the enterprise,” he said.

“It has been a good device, but has the opportunity to be transformational. Whilst I'm waiting for that, I may not binning my laptop, but I won't be getting rid of angry birds either.”

Last year I met with David Smith, chief technology and information officer at Fujitsu, who told me that his company approves the use of the Apple iPhone but had barred the iPad. In a recent catch up he told me that policy could be changed following the introduction of iOS4 on the iPad and if the iPhone can be supported on the same platform, then the iPad could be supported too.

“Our formal deployment is for the Fujitsu tablet and as much I love to do the personally allowed to buy what you want, for a manufacturer it is a bit of a step,” he said.

“Increasingly people want to buy their own phone, if it is a smartphone we insist that they use our corporate airtime and we will be doing the same for the iPad. That will be one of our provisos, from the 1st April if it is not on an 02 SIM it will not be connected. That is all about clarity and ease of management, it sounds restrictive but you need a clean way to navigate through.”

This year will see the launch of BlackBerry's PlayBook to rival the iPad and to give the RIM fans an option, while devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab have taken the handheld market literally, with a tablet that sits in your pocket. For now though, it is Apple who have dominated the tablet market for the past year and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.


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