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Apple's cumulonimbus vision


By Scott Bradner


The most surprising thing about the presentations Apples leaders gave to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6th was that we actually had been told in advance some of the things that were going to be discussed.  That may not have been unprecedented, but sure is unusual.  In addition, much of what Steve and the gang presented had been telegraphed last October. ( including the migration of features from the iPad/iPhone operating system (iOS) into  of the laptop/desktop operating system (OS X).  Some of this looks OK but I sure hope that it does not portend a further hiding of the very good Unix system that is the foundation of OS X.


The topic that got the most airplay was Jobs' introduction of the Apple iCloud -- the latest entry in the cloud computing biz.  (see  Apple's full vision is a bit hard to discern from Jobs' presentation or from the information on the Apple website. ( But, whatever the details, it already looks like a broader view than its competitors who tend to focus on ground hugging stratus clouds or high-altitude cirrus clouds with little grounding in reality.  Apple, so far, seems more in the cumulonimbus mode, covering the space from the ground level to well above its competitors.


But one thing was glairing in its absence from the keynote ( - the iCloud part starts at minute 79) -- security.  The word was not even mentioned.


Apple knows how to talk about security.  See, for example the very good presentation Apple folk made to the IETF about Back to My Mac.  (  So why not have a section on the iCloud web pages talking about security? 


It is not like security is not a big topic these days.  It is hard to more than a few days without yet another major security breach being splashed all over the press.  In Apple's future all of your music, movies, contacts, email, calendar entries, documents, etc. will reside in the Apple-run iCloud.  Security just might be a concern to some people. 


For example, it is likely to be a concern to the corporate security people when their employees start to work on corporate documents on their Apple devices.  At this point the security folk have to put their trust in the unknown and unknowable.  (See for some suggestions


Apple does not have a good history of being open and prompt when it comes to security issues.  They do fix security problems but it is always a bit of a surprise when problems gets fixed because Apple has a genetic inability to be open and tell their customers things the customers actually need to know, like what threats the are under what is being done to mitigate the threats.  


It may be that Apple is not significantly different than its competitors when it comes to cloud security, it may be that they are better or worse but there is no way to know if they do not start talking about the topic.


disclaimer: Talking about security is my Harvard day-job but the university has not commented on its view of Apple's refusal to do the same so the above is my own observation and opinion.