May the force be with you: Mobile identity, security, and Windows 10 for 2016

(c)iStock.com/Brendan Hunter

Star Wars has gone from a cult-like programme to a global phenomenon. Parallel analogies can be drawn when we look at the growth of the mobile market, from house-brick sized, leather-clad devices, to well over a billion smartphones and growing.

Given the similarities between the two, it’s a useful exercise to view the mobile marketplace in 2016 through the lens of Star Wars. After all there is certainly an almighty battle taking place between legacy systems and mobile, with the ongoing conflict around security setting the scene. And, as we slide into 2016, this battle is going to get bigger and noisier.

A nuclear device

The central conflict in Star Wars is an ongoing battle between the establishment and a rebel splinter group. It’s just like the tug-of-war between the traditional enterprise IT desktop team and the mobile team. It might take a megaton nuclear device to decide the issue, and this coming year that could well be Windows 10.

Windows 10 has adopted a similar architecture to iOS and Android. This means that the traditional system image and the domain approach to security will fade into stardust in many use cases. Windows 10 is certainly going to drop a bomb on the desktop because it promises greater security, agility, and cost-effectiveness. It’s also going to hit budget resources with mobile and desktop teams trading blows over who gets what.

Long and bloody

To continue the Star Wars analogy, the notion of whether one of its most enduring characters, Luke Skywalker, is a Jedi or a Sith is a topic for much debate. We all thought he was Jedi, the whole world did, but now it’s not so clear.

It’s like the battle for identity in the enterprise with Google and Microsoft as the two key participants. To put it simply, both behemoths believe that identity is the foundation to deliver services to users. Both believe that if their platform is the authoritative source of identity, then they have a better chance of being the service provider of choice. A lot is at stake.

We’ve already seen the opening spars. Microsoft was not part of Google’s ‘Android for Work’ initiative which focused on the enterprise; the traditional Microsoft hunting ground. Microsoft sees identity as its central control point for enterprise cloud services. This is the battle for the ownership of end-user identity. With transparent authentication being so important, this identity battle between Google and Microsoft could last a decade.

Manning the battlements

Mercenaries and shady characters are common fodder in Star Wars, so what better analogy for the spectre of mobile hackers? It’s inevitable that we will see hackers ramp up their focus on attacking apps. Mobile is the new desktop and, for hackers, it’s a potential pot of gold. Expect to see hackers develop ever more ingenious methods, including clever ways to make apps appear ‘trusted’ in app stores. And expect Apple to become much stricter in controlling the use of private APIs.

Any chance of peace?

The pressure of continuing app fragmentation, rapid technology change, and demanding users will force CIOs to adopt a position of neutrality. They will want to protect data but they are learning that if they restrict users, chaos and data loss will ensue as employees bring their own apps into the enterprise. And so in 2016, we’re going to see CIOs embrace a more agile model of IT security and policy design. 

 

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