Technologizer

Apple’s Other Eden: iOS

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If you’re absolutely positive that the recent appearance of several variants of a trojan that targets OS X in the wild is proof that Mac fans are in for nothing but misery on the security front from now on, you’re wrong.

If you’re absolutely positive that it’s a one time blip and things will shortly return to peaceable normalcy, you’re wrong.

It’s just going to take a while to judge the long term impact of this first truly meaningful attack on Mac users. But I do have some thoughts on the matter, which I share in this week’s Technologizer column for TIME.com.

One thing I didn’t dwell on in the column: How will Apple respond? Will it be inclined to lock down OS X in ways that it hasn’t done to date? And will developments on the security front in OS X have any impact in its thinking with iOS?

The operating system that powers the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad isn’t completely free of security risks, of course; no OS is. But with the very limited ability of apps to communicate with each other and Apple’s App Store approval process, it comes as close to being tamper-proof as any OS that permits users to run third-party software possibly can. It may be a walled garden, but it’s a safe walled garden. A walled Garden of Eden, if you will.

I’ve always assumed that Apple will loosen some of the limitations it imposes on iOS and iOS devices over time–at least a little bit. For one thing, it may feel the need to do so to stay competitive with Android and other platforms.

For another, if it does so slowly, it can do it in ways that are least likely to create more problems than they solve. It did so with its approach to multitasking–which was to introduce it only when it could do it right, and only in a way designed to reduce the chance of it making the platform less stable, secure, and power-efficient.

But the looser Apple’s control over iOS gets, the higher the chances of a major security issue sneaking through. Apple doesn’t want that–it would be bad for iOS users, and bad for iOS’s reputation. (I presume that the company is wincing over the Mac Defender saga; though it’s far from a disaster, it makes it harder for Apple to use security as a major Mac selling point.)

So I’m curious to see what happens with iOS and developments that might make it a little more powerful and a little less bulletproof. The version of iOS that Apple unveils next week at its WWDC keynote in San Francisco was hatched long before the current Mac incident. But one of the things I’ll be listening for at the keynote are any clues about Apple’s philosophy on this stuff moving forward.

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