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iCloud: Apple's cumulonimbus vision


'Net Insider By Scott Bradner, Network World

June 13, 2011 02:38 PM ET


The most surprising thing about the presentations Apple's leaders gave at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month was that we actually had been told in advance about some of the news that was going to be discussed. In fact, much of what Steve Jobs and the gang presented had been telegraphed as far back as October, including the migration of features from the iPad/iPhone

 operating system (iOS) into 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 Apple iCloud -- the latest entry in the cloud computing biz. Apple's full vision is a bit hard to discern from Jobs' presentation or from the information on Apple's website. But whatever the details, it already looks like a broader view than that outlined by its competitors that 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 topic was glairing in its absence from the Apple keynote -- 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 (view as a PDF). 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 pass 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 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 "Apple iCloud: How do you stay secure with this thing?" for some suggestions.)


Apple does not have a good history of being open and prompt when it comes to security issues. The company does 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 customers things they actually need to know, like what threats they are under and what is being done to mitigate them.


It may be that Apple is not significantly different than its competitors when it comes to cloud security. It may be that the company is better or worse, but there is no way to know if Apple doesn't 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.


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