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Report: CACI provides 'neutered' iPads to US government

updated 05:52 pm EST, Fri February 8, 2013

Modifications made to secure devices, prevent data theft

Government contractor and security firm CACI International has modified thousands of iPads so that they meet US government security requirements, according to CACI CEO Dan Allen. The Arlington, VA company secures the devices by physically altering the hardware, rather than through software modifications. Federal iPad users include President Barack Obama, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI.

Allen said that the iPads commonly seen in publicity photos at the agencies and in the President's hands are "most likely a product that either came from us or came from someone we work with." The CEO added that the iPad's wireless connectivity and camera are the highest-risk features in a top secret environment. "It's a neutered iPad," Allen told Bloomberg reporters. "We're working on how do we effectively brand it."

MacNN has spoken with sources within the US government that say that both the front and rear-facing cameras have been completely removed from the device, and none of the devices -- unless prohibited outright from a top secret area -- have any 3G, LTE, or Wi-Fi connectivity. While the Bluetooth icon appears at the top of an iPad, there seems to be no way to connect the device to any peripherals or to another Bluetooth device for file transfer.

We were also told that the devices have "strict inventory requirements" and are capable of being completely disabled in what has been called a "destructive manner" after being removed from the secure facility. The iPads and other iOS devices have custom modifications depending on the security level of documents that it will be exposed to.

"Twenty years ago, we could tell when somebody had a hard drive shoved in their pants and put a stop to it," MacNN was told. "Now, you can fit an entire ship's log, propulsion plant history and information, and whatever else you can copy on a device no bigger than a fingernail clipper and get it out easy, if you want, if we don't stop it."



By Electronista Staff
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  1. wrenchy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 11-03-09

    Yes but...

    Isn't the term "iPad" by definition, a neutered tablet??

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Originally Posted by wrenchyView Post

    Isn't the term "iPad" by definition, the only "tablet" anyone knows about? It's the most popular and best-selling model, as well as the most highly-rated such device -- so much so that it kicks Android and all other competitors to the curb with its **80 percent** end-user marketshare, isn't that right??



    There, fixed that for you.

  1. FireWire

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 10-03-99

    eReader

    no network? So they basically use an eReader? "can I see that file? Just email it to me, I'll sync it later when I get back to my computer"...

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by wrenchyView Post

    Isn't the term "iPad" by definition, a neutered tablet??



    Yes. Is that your Shocking Revelation of the Day?

    That the iPad is functionally limited? Malware-neutered? Complexity-neutered?

    We all really appreciate your presence here, and your continued efforts at educating us to stuff that everybody knows, and that is actually the very basis of the products' success.

    Such a smart guy.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by chas_mView Post

    There, fixed that for you.




    Do you think Apple's dominance will last?

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    It seems not unlikely that their dominance in sales numbers could leave them at #1 for years to come, but with the Kindle Fire at #2 and an assortment of Android tablets (most of them Samsung) taking up the majority, but with Apple taking up 70% of the profits.

    That's basically the way the cellphone market has developed, once competitors figured out how to make their products not suck. (Though the cellphone market has no real equivalent to the Kindle Fire — a content-marketing platform sold at a loss.)

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    It seems not unlikely that their dominance in sales numbers could leave them at #1 for years to come, but with the Kindle Fire at #2 and an assortment of Android tablets (most of them Samsung) taking up the majority, but with Apple taking up 70% of the profits.

    That's basically the way the cellphone market has developed, once competitors figured out how to make their products not suck. (Though the cellphone market has no real equivalent to the Kindle Fire — a content-marketing platform sold at a loss.)




    Yeah, I could see that. My limited impressions are that the OS is ready, but perhaps the SDK for app development is not rich enough, or the apps simply aren't at the quality of the iPad's yet, or both.

    What I think will make the most difference though is business deployment scenarios. If, say, restaurants across America start buying iPads, schools continue to get them, and businesses in general standardize on the iPad within their infrastructure (possibly replacing PCs with iPads), this will at least buy Apple time. However, I see a more likely scenario where businesses standardize on cheaper Android based tablets, see the open-sourced Android as less of a potential liability, and as I've said before, Google releases a feature-parity desktop Android version to complete the picture.

    If we start to see more Android tablets in business than PCs, Apple could become far less relevant. I think the iPad is a much different device than the iPhone in that a phone is personal, and people will have them regardless of their employer, whereas tablets have insane amounts of yet fully tapped business potential.

    I'm a happy iOS owner and a fan and don't see that changing, but if I were a betting man I'd bet on Android market dominance and much less Apple relevance. I don't think it will ever get to where the Mac is today in relation to the PC, but I could see something like 25% iPad, 70% Android, 5% other.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    I'm also very tempted to think that Apple should think carefully about licensed iPad clones. I really think the big catalyst here will be Apple's unequalled software, not their hardware, and I tend to think that hardware-wise the tablet market will eventually settle into basically dumb terminals. I mean, these tablets will not be expandable, need to support 92384092 third-party hardware options that require a slew of drivers, etc. The devices are basically thin screens + minimal hardware needed to run iOS + a camera + Wifi + cell service for internet access. I have no doubt that Apple's competition matching the iPad in hardware or at least coming close enough to satisfy most will not be a bottleneck.

    Apple could at least hold their own against Google in software though, and like I said, the business potential here is insane enough for me to be inclined to think along these lines.

    These are just my tentative thoughts, I'm sure Spheric and others will disagree, I'm not dead set on them, just throwing this out there.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    I don't think Apple's *relevance* is going to change much.

    I think they will continue to be the default standard everything else is compared to. Android phones are selling compared to the iPhone. Their price is compared to the iPhone ("cheaper"). Their features are compared to the iPhone ("more"). Their interface is compared to the iPhone ("good enough").

    And their profits are a JOKE compared to the iPhone. Samsung makes around 39% of the profit on about 30% of the sales, but that's across a whole slew of devices, including dumb phones, which surely have close to zero profits. And Samsung's rise was NOT at the expense of Apple. They killed everybody ELSE's profits. Apple still makes 70% on about 35% of the market.

    I don't see any of that changing much in the foreseeable future.

    The iPad market will probably play out the same way, except with the Kindle killing most of the iPads' competition due to its zero-profit model being impossible to match except by selling absolute shit.

    Originally Posted by besson3cView Post

    Yeah, I could see that. My limited impressions are that the OS is ready, but perhaps the SDK for app development is not rich enough, or the apps simply aren't at the quality of the iPad's yet, or both.



    It's the same problem as on Android phones, which usage shares bear out: People aren't buying Android devices to spend money on them, or even to *use them* much. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing. If more apps on Android didn't suck, people might use/buy them more.

    But as it stands, there simply isn't any money in the Android app market (perhaps that's a "yet", but maybe not), so the incentive to spend a lot of time on optimizing an Android app for a really good experience on two hundred different devices that are going to collective produce 10% of the profits, while 90% come from a well-documented SDK requiring optimization for three different devices… well, it's kind of obvious.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by besson3cView Post

    I'm also very tempted to think that Apple should think carefully about licensed iPad clones. I really think the big catalyst here will be Apple's unequalled software, not their hardware, and I tend to think that hardware-wise the tablet market will eventually settle into basically dumb terminals.



    Apple as close to 40% margin on hardware sales. And their software/hardware platform is the industry yardstick because of the excellent interplay of software and hardware (touch screens, battery life).

    In the cellphone market, they rake in well over two thirds of the ENTIRE MARKET profit on their hardware sales, despite their software platform only having one-third-or-so market share (of phones overall).

    Why should they be the *slightest* bit interested in licensing their software to ANYBODY?

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    Apple as close to 40% margin on hardware sales. And their software/hardware platform is the industry yardstick because of the excellent interplay of software and hardware (touch screens, battery life).

    In the cellphone market, they rake in well over two thirds of the ENTIRE MARKET profit on their hardware sales, despite their software platform only having one-third-or-so market share (of phones overall).

    Why should they be the *slightest* bit interested in licensing their software to ANYBODY?




    Because a large marketshare is a nice insurance policy towards continuation of these profits/dominance, and new profits can be made via volume sales of software (although there is a risk of product cannibalization). I know this has never been Apple's way in the past, I'm just wondering if there hasn't at least been thought into taking the iPad in a different direction in light of the potential here. This is sort of like a Mac vs. PC do-over, but with a completely different playing field and parameters which might allow Apple to play the role of the PC without having to make the same sort of ugly tradeoffs they would have had to have made in PC clones.

    Again, I'm not married to this idea, just throwing this out there.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    But as it stands, there simply isn't any money in the Android app market (perhaps that's a "yet", but maybe not), so the incentive to spend a lot of time on optimizing an Android app for a really good experience on two hundred different devices that are going to collective produce 10% of the profits, while 90% come from a well-documented SDK requiring optimization for three different devices… well, it's kind of obvious.




    I think this will go away with general product and industry maturation.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    How much longer do you give the Android phone market to reach that point?

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    How much longer do you give the Android phone market to reach that point?



    I guess when we are clearly past the stage of there being a lot of gimmicky mobile apps, and we start to see the tidal wave of business deployments phasing out PC deployments?

    I still tend to think that the mobile thing is still in its infancy. We are past all of the fart apps, but I don't think there is something yet to tear people away from MS Office, Exchange, I don't know what sorts of Oracle DB clients exist and how good they are, financial apps, etc. I think many people are taking a wait-and-see approach with what comes of content creation. Could there be a day when a tablet Photoshop-like app begins to replace the desktop version? Final Cut? I'm looking forward to a music notation app for the iPad on pair with Finale or Sibelius. Have the game makers hit their stride?

    I think that certain kinds of content creation will probably never be pleasant on an iPad, but perhaps there is a place for some user to pull up old Powerpoint slides or Excel spreadsheets on their tablet (and I have no idea how well compatibility works out for doing this with Keynote/Numbers), access their Quickbooks balance sheet for read-only viewing, look at something a designer came up with in Adobe CS (and be able to access the layers), etc.

    Some or all of this might be possible today or in the near future, but it will also take some time for Joe Business-guy to make these adjustments (even if it is just switching to Pages/Keynote/Numbers and being 100% confident with it), for their IT infrastructure to get with it, etc. Change is almost always initially expensive and laborious.

    Anyway, I think that this stuff is still shaking out.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    I was asking about the PHONE market, which has been showing signs of stabilizing after a five-year revolution, but which shows no signs of Apple ceding their position as industry leader and ridiculously effective (comparatively) profit center, both in terms of hardware and for the app market.

    The tablet market is nowhere NEAR stabilizing, but it's pretty clear that what is happening is that it's replacing "regular" computers for many.

    I would love a great notation software — preferably one that can be driven via a generic MIDI interface — but so far, the only actual "killer" app I've found for the job is software like MIDI Designer and MIDI Touch, which have freely available editor templates for mid-eighties synthesizers that very effectively replace hardware controllers that would each cost a LOT more than an iPad alone to acquire.

    Now that the ice has been broken and I've actually found a tool that makes the iPad indispensable, I'll now gently be looking at tools like unrealBook for lead sheet/gig management to replace the ridiculously effective stacks of paper I've been working with so far.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Have you seen this iPad music notation app?

    ThinkMusic iPad App - The Ultimate Music Notation App by ThinkMusic Technology — Kickstarter

    I've been at jam sessions where people have hauled out their iPad fake books, they are pretty sweet.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Well, the thing about the iPad fake books is that they're usually either just glorified PDF viewers, or lead sheet collections with no way to enter melodies. The latter are okay for comping, but useless for learning songs.

    And the former are nice (and I've shifted to PDFs and scans of my own archive in lieu of carrying around huge tomes), but without a really well-done annotation feature that will let me enter notes on a staff (to mark hook lines and breaks), the iPad offers little real advantage over traditional lead sheets for projects with, say, 20-song sets.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    Well, the thing about the iPad fake books is that they're usually either just glorified PDF viewers, or lead sheet collections with no way to enter melodies. The latter are okay for comping, but useless for learning songs.

    And the former are nice (and I've shifted to PDFs and scans of my own archive in lieu of carrying around huge tomes), but without a really well-done annotation feature that will let me enter notes on a staff (to mark hook lines and breaks), the iPad offers little real advantage over traditional lead sheets for projects with, say, 20-song sets.




    It looks like that Thinkmusic thing would be perfect for you? It's a shame it looks like it won't be funded at this point. I'm not sure if it will be sufficient for me, as I often need more music engraving type stuff rather than something that will crank out a simple lead sheet (with no expressions, articulations, etc.), but if nothing more it might be handy for just getting the bulk of one's music digitized. Finale is apparently working on an iPad app, but they haven't announced pricing yet.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    I really don't want to deal with Finale's interface on an iPad.

    Also, I've already scanned/PDF'ed the bulk of my material.

    I have need for multiple approaches:

    For band projects, I need to be able to create lead sheets and annotate those with little bits for breaks and hooks (or vice versa).
    I also need to be able to annotate lead sheets I already have or have received as PDFs. (unrealBook looks like it fits the bill for that particular one).

    I also need to quickly create two- or three-part staffs for lessons, by playing them via MIDI and/or by entering them on screen, saving those as printable/archivable files.
    Often I'll get a request during a lesson, and hit up Youtube for the song, figure out the part, show it to the fastest learner in the group, and have him/her explain it to the other students as I write down the music and secondary/third parts, or play them into my notation template in Logic or in GarageBand.

    Thing is, notation is such a complex thing that it'll take YEARS to get right. Logic is frustrating to no end on occasion ("oh, you won't accept a triplet on that, giving me some bullshit sixteenth-contraption, but that one over there, that I've repeatedly quantized to sixteenths, needs to be shown as eighth triplets? **** you, Logic."), but it's been worked on for decades, and it works well enough that it'll take something REALLY convincing to get me off of it.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    I hear you. Most musicians I know suffer either through Finale and Sibelius and have learned its idiosyncrasies, endured its frustrations, but have become very fast at inputting stuff into them (both programs are pretty expensive too, so it seems like musicians know one or the other but rarely both). There was a blog post about the Finale iPad app and IIRC it implied that the interface would be revamped, but I have little faith that they'll get it right.

    Some people have also gotten really fast at Finale's speedy entry mode, which is entirely keyboard based. I'm not sure that an app like this ThinkMusic thing that relies on piano keyboard input would be any faster.

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Back on topic

    Back on topic, am I the only one who thinks it's ridiculous to disable the camera on these devices. Tell your employees to not take pictures. That's it. Any employee to wants to disobey the rules can sneak in a far smaller camera anyway. Disabling the camera in an iPad, laptop, phone, etc. stops nothing.

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