December 3, 2015

Security blends when mobile and PCs converge

Mobile and PC experiences are interbreeding, as our CTO Kevin Mahaffey noted in our cybersecurity predictions.

That is, the software — and even hardware — associated with both PCs and mobile devices will soon no longer be distinct versions optimized for specific screen real estate.

This year, we predicted that “operating systems and form factors will converge,” but in reality, this process has already started. Microsoft’s Windows 10 is a clear example. Microsoft has opted to use its latest OS version across multiple device-types: smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Windows 10 apps, in turn, are “universal,” and usable across these devices (which is good news for developers). The company has created a Windows 10 app store through which people can download these apps to any of their devices.

With adoption of Windows 10 in the enterprise, PC security architectures look like mobile security architectures. Today, mobile operating systems typically utilize sandboxing, where each application package is isolated from others; code-signing policy, where developers digitally sign apps and those signatures are used to grant privileges; and app-vetting, where app store operators (both in enterprise and public app stores) analyze apps for suitability. Windows 10 when managed by an enterprise includes all of these components in its security architecture.

The PC app store concept may have been our first signal that this kind of convergence was coming. In 2011, Apple released the Mac App Store with its Snow Leopard OSX, moving individuals toward considering the software on their computers as “applications,” and not just files. Though Apple’s CEO Tim Cook does not foresee a shared OS across its iPhone, iPad, and MacBook offerings, there are a number of features that are shared between the three, including the concept of the app store. The look and feel of iOS and OSX is also very similar.

We’re also seeing mobile hardware adopt the positive elements of PCs, the biggest one being the beloved keyboard. Apple announced this year that the iPad Pro will now come with a keyboard that will help bridge the gap between larger and heavier PCs and lighter and more portable tablets.

The remarkable amount of processing power available to mobile devices may be the reason behind some of this shift. Mobile devices are fully computers in our pockets — they’re powerful, they help you be more productive, and they’re convenient to use. However, we’ve yet to scratch the surface on their full potential – no matter the screen size.

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