Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Apple iPhone's "sterile platform"

An article in the Joongang Daily this morning reminded me of the opening pages of Jonathan Zittrain's excellent book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. (available for full download with a Creative Commons copyright)  He begins by describing the Apple II computer as a "quintessentially generative technology," and then goes on to explain why the Apple iPhone was the opposite, a pre-programmed, sterile platform.
It turns out, as reported in the Joongang Daily, that the Korean government is preparing to launch a mobile app for use by the nearly one million civil servants employed by the Korean government.  According to the article, Korea's "...Ministry of Public Administration and Security said it asked the National Intelligence Service late last year to review the security level of smartphones and tablet PCs on the market as part of its preparations for developing the new service. Following the review, the NIS asked mobile device manufacturers like Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Pantech and Apple to meet security-level requirements including source code disclosures as a prerequisite for participating in the development and installation of the electronic system."
Apple's local subsidiary rejected the NIS request on the basis that it represented unwanted meddling. “What the NIS and Korean government are trying to do is meddle with Apple’s own system,” said an Apple Korea insider, who asked not to be identified. “But Apple is equipped with the one and only door to its iOS system - iTunes - in the interest of tight security and to protect itself. That’s why Apple has gained a reputation for stable security. Look at Android. It has about 100 doors. It’s impossible for Apple to hand the key to the door over to the Korean government.” In this instance, the contrast between Google's open source platform and advocacy of an "open web" and Apple's closed, sterile approach, could not be clearer.

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