The Pentagon approved Apple's iPhone and iPad for use on military networks Friday, a first for the Cupertino company. The U.S. Department of Defense approved Apple's mobile devices that run iOS 6, giving Apple the chance to play a greater role in future U.S. military information systems.
Technically, the DOD issued a "STIG," a Security Technical Implementation Guide, covering iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches running iOS 6. The STIG clears the way for those devices, "connect to Defense Department networks within current mobility pilots or the future mobile device management framework."
For many years, the only smartphones allowed on U.S. military networks were BlackBerry devices. The DOD has been in the process of offering military personnel more flexibility in the devices they use, and the addition of Apple's devices follows the approval of BlackBerry 10 devices and Samsung devices running a version of Android that has been hardened with "Knox" software.
"The release of the Apple iOS 6 STIG is a major stride in building a multivendor environment, supporting a diverse selection of devices and operating systems," the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) said in a statement. "This STIG demonstrate DISA's commitment to validate a range of devices that meet DOD security standards so the best technology is available to achieve mission requirements,"
Currently, the DOD has more than 600,000 mobile devices deployed. 470,000 of them are BlackBerry devices, while 41,000 are Apple devices. Another 8,700 are Android devices. The Apple and Android devices already in use are mostly in pilot programs.
The entire DOD is much, much larger, of course, and mobile devices are increasing in importance for the military just as much as they are for we civilians. There could conceivably be millions of devices in use on military networks in the future, and there's money for hardware makers and solutions providers alike in selling and maintaining those devices.
To that end, DISA said that a short-term goal (short term in military terms) is to have a special application store online for military use that can support "about 100,000 devices from multiple vendors" by February.