How Apple Could Lead the Next Big Tech Trend–Security As A Service

on August 23, 2013

Security is a hot topic in many countries at the moment. And it is going to be a hot topic for the foreseeable future, perhaps for reasons you may not even know yet. It is fascinating to listen to water cooler conversations from folks on the topic. Security, or a lack-there-of, is quickly becoming top of mind for many human beings and rightly so. The question that I think is interesting in all of this discussion is the role technology can play around the topic of security. More importantly, what can technology companies do with regard to security.

Computers come in all shapes and sizes these days. Some go in our pocket, some go in our bags, some sit in our desks and others in large cooled warehouses. Soon we will even have computers that we wear on our person. What comes with this new era of ‘personal electronics’ is new levels of intimacy with our devices. Our smart phones are very personal and more importantly heavily personalized. They contain quite a lot of data about us and are gathering more each and every day. We use them to communicate, participate in commerce, gather information, etc. As I look out at the markets I study and the technologies orienting themselves to serve them, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the idea of security and, more specifically the idea of security as a service, is about to get a lot of attention. And given Apple’s leadership role on a lot of digital things, I expect Apple to lead the charge in next generation of personal digital security too.

An Embedded and Integrated Experience

There are several reasons I think Apple will move the goal posts as it relates to security. The first is related to their acquisition of AuthenTec in 2012. We had been tracking AuthenTec at the time and they had many of the leading solutions for mobile security and biometric sensor technology. AuthenTec also conveniently holds the vast majority of patents in many key areas related to this type of security.

The second reason, which is why Apple bought AuthenTec rather than license the technology, is because Apple is a highly vertically oriented company. Meaning they own and control all the essential elements for them to create the Apple centric experience.

By owning all the key components from designing the system-on-chip, to the hardware and software security layers, the operating system, the hardware itself, and the underlying cloud framework, Apple is uniquely positioned to create a security solution unlike many others.

Security as a Service

Traditionally we think of security as a feature. I’m proposing we think of it as a service. This would include a set of features, when combined and continually implemented, it will be embedded into the fabric of the computing experience.

Earlier this year, in an article for MacWorld, Rich Mogull wrote a great piece. In this article he made many astute observations and comments. This one in particular:

Despite a rocky start, Apple now applies its impressive design sensibilities to security, playing the game its own way and in the process changing our expectations for security and technology.

Apple can afford to play the game their own way since they are the most vertically oriented personal electronics manufacturer on the planet. This will let them do things like bind elements of device security to their processor designs. This follows Intel’s logic with their purchase of McAfee to create new generations of secure silicon adding new levels of encryption to local data. Apple being in control of their hardware and software also would allow them to offer customers the ability to do a thumb scan or image recognition before engaging in a transaction, manage all our passwords in the cloud, etc, and ultimately give us more control of our own digital identity and security.

No Trivial Problem

What I find fascinating about what Apple and others in the industry moving in this direction is not only how complex this problem is but also how risky it is. On device security is one thing but securing data between the device and others as well as the cloud gets even more complex. But I’d argue that tightly integrated solutions stand the best chance to deliver.

Security is a big deal and any company touting the benefits of security as a service has just put a target on their back. But, that doesn’t change the fact that it is important and necessary for companies providing solutions to the consumer market to address this issue. That is what makes this discussion incredibly strategic to Apple as well as others. [pullquote]It is a battle field their core perceived competitor has no interest in playing on[/pullquote]

Security as a service could become a key differentiator for Apple products and a driving reason to choose Apple products over others. But even more interestingly, their competition (Google) doesn’t care about security. It is a battle field their core perceived competitor has no interest in playing on. And that makes it all the more important.

I’m not going to go speculate on how this is going to play out. I just feel the trend bubbling up in a way that makes me believe more security centric solutions are coming and it will be made a big deal. What’s more, only a few companies seem like they have it in their interests to offer this service to their customers as a part of the holistic computing experience.