Despite its popularity, Android is a downright mess on the security front. Recent data has shown that Android malware samples are up considerably, and the enterprise, especially, is deeply concerned with Google and the security community's ability to stop those threats.
Apple, meanwhile, has charted a different path. While iOS is being targeted by some hackers, it's decidedly an after-thought. And everything from a lack of a USB drive to signs the company might build fingerprint scanners into its upcoming devices seems to indicate that the iPad's secret sauce advantage might not be cool hardware design or differentiated software, but better security.
When evaluating the success of Apple’s products over the last several years, many industry handicappers have said that the company is popular because of its strong branding and dedication to innovation. Both points are valid and historically, might be the key reasons Apple is generating so much profit each quarter.
Looking ahead, however, Apple might not be able to call attention to those features. The company might still chase innovation and its brand might be viewed favorably, but Google and Samsung, among others, are providing much of the same to customers. And Apple, which has leveraged its tantalizing tech designs to great effect, is now largely on par with competitors.
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A security advantage?
The single trump card for Apple, though, is security. In the enterprise, security is everything. The very thought of sensitive data being stolen is enough to push CIOs to anxiety attacks. And as recent data has shown, that concern rises significantly when Android is added to the mix.
Alcatel-Lucent’s Kindsight Security Labs revealed in July that Android malware samples are up significantly. In March 2013, total Android malware samples stood at 20,000. By the end of June, the total number of samples jumped to 120,000. What’s worse, Android is now the top destination for malicious hackers, beating out Windows for the first time.
That’s right: Android, not Windows, is the spot malicious hackers want to take you down.
That Android is a security threat is nothing new. For years, we’ve heard that Google’s operating system lacked the security found in other mobile platforms, and despite its claims to the contrary, it doesn’t appear the search giant is doing much to allay the market’s fears. (A big part of the problem are third party (i.e. non-Google Play) app stores where a lot of the malware resides).
Unwilling to wait for Google, Samsung has decided to take matters into its own hands with its Knox security platform. That company is pouring boatloads of cash and resources into Knox to reassure the enterprise that its mobile products can be trusted. What’s more, the company realizes that Knox could be the key differentiator that will attract more people to its platform.
Lost amid the Android discussion is Apple. The company might not be shipping as many devices as all of the Android vendors around the world combined, but its iPad is wildly popular. But despite that, hackers have, on a comparative basis, ignored the device to focus on Android.
Meanwhile, Apple is reportedly eyeing ways to increase the security chasm between its products and those running Android with help from a fingerprint scanner.
Patents and patent applications that crop up from time to time suggest Apple is thinking about new ways to authenticate users when they access iOS and find ways to improve overall security for its mobile products. Even Apple’s $356 million acquisition last year of security firm AuthenTec has left the market to wonder just how that investment will play into iPads and iPhones.
Save for a few minor modifications and improvements, the iPad hasn’t changed much since its launch in 2010. Apple has ostensibly decided that if it’s not broken, there’s no need to fix its slate. And judging by its sales figures, customers agree.
The next wave of innovation
But almost surreptitiously, Apple has realized that things need to change. Mobile products are becoming increasingly popular targets for malicious hackers and so far, not a single vendor has distinguished itself in the marketplace. The true point of innovation, therefore, is finding a way to distinguish the product on security.
I’ll be the first to admit that trying to predict what Apple might do in the coming years is extremely difficult. But I’m willing to go out on a limb and say with near-perfect certainty that the company’s future tablet success will be tied in a very meaningful way to its ability to innovate on security.
With every tablet on store shelves looking the same, running the same components, and providing much the same experience, it’ll be Apple’s willingness to improve our security that will ultimately help its product stand above a very crowded field.
(For more articles about Security in relation with tablets, check TabTimes.com/security-privacy)