Apple iPad: The Evolution of Home Computing

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I have seen the future of home computing, and it is the iPad. I'm convinced of it.

Yes, iPadurday has come and gone. Many of us have Wi-Fi iPads in our grubby little mitts. Early reviews have been mostly stellar. The device -- and more importantly, the software running it -- is superb, but certainly not perfect. And now we've seen Steve Jobs outline the next release of the operating system, iPhone OS 4.0. That's all well and good, but largely secondary to my point.

I've discussed the app store model here a couple of times , and the security ramifications it carries. Well, let's consider the iPad in that light, now that it has been released.

When I got my iPad, I immediately installed several software packages on it. Most of it was for entertainment (e.g., Netflix, ABC Reader), but I also installed a couple of apps that could at least ostensibly be used for business (e.g., Pages, Keynote). Each installation was simple: I ran the App Store application, found the tools I wanted, and clicked the purchase icon. Within moments, each package installed.

The installation process gave me absolutely no choice as far as where the software would reside on my iPad. In fact, I had no choices whatsoever beyond yes/no to purchase the apps.

Once the apps were installed, I was able to get some of my Keynote presentations and Pages documents over to my iPad via an iTunes synchronization to my MacBook Pro. (The need to do it that way is a separate topic, discussed below.) But here too, I had absolutely no way of controlling or choosing where the documents were placed on the iPad. Once I synchronized the device, the documents appeared for their respective applications.

For many of my fellow techies, the words "lack of choice" are the kiss of death for a device like this. But for the average consumer, "lack of choice" can be interpreted as "simple," by and large. And to get to the masses, simple never hurts.

So, what are the security ramifications here? Well, for one thing, there is no direct access to the file system without installing an app that gives you (limited) access to the iPad's file system. Yes, there are ways to "jailbreak" your iPad and get to the underlying file system, but short of some malware doing that "for" them, that's not something you'd find any consumers doing.

The apps themselves are at least somewhat sandboxed from one another. Data from one application isn't generally available to other applications. And application storage can't -- again, in the absence of jailbreaking -- be overwritten by another application.

Now, I'm not na?ve enough to believe that the sandboxing and compartmentalization won't get broken by malware and such. It'll happen, just as sure as the sun rises. Someone will find a vector to inject some malicious data into the device and get that data to execute, causing untold damage to the security architecture of the device.

At a Glance
  • Apple looks set to shake up casual computing with a tablet that offers clever design and ease of use. But that streamlined approach may also be the iPad's weakness.


    • Best-in-class touch interface
    • Large display shows pics and videos beautifully
    • All-day battery life


    • No way to manage files, no camera, no multitasking
    • Lack of Flash support cripples many Web sites
    • Poor scaling of iPhone apps
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