Ever since Apple’s iPad 2 announcement last week I have been reading a lot on the Internet about the “post-PC world.” Basically, what is being talked about is a vision of computing being painted by Apple as implemented by the iPad. Post-PC promises a simpler, perhaps safer way of computing than today’s personal computing. For many safer computing is the same as simpler computing because one of the most complex parts of today’s PC is protecting it from being damaged by viruses and malware and protecting data from being stolen.
If smartphones and tablets are tools of the post-PC world, then we need to think about the security of these devices, but I think the point of calling them post-PC is that we shouldn’t have to think about their being secure. Recently there was another malware incident with Android. As many as 50 programs were found in the Android Market to contain a malware called DroidDream. Reactions to this incident has fallen into a familiar pattern, with some web sites proclaiming the perils of Android’s openness, to others that say users should not be scared.
While it is true that the Android Market is not worst than today’s Internet and personal computing, to make such a statement is to miss the point of post-PC computing. People are attracted to “post-PC” because they are weary of having to worry about security, they don’t want to have to worry about application permissions, and they want assurances that the applications they install on their smartphones and tablets are safe. People are willing to give up the ability to install any software they want on their post-PC devices if in return they don’t have to worry about security.
Nobody is saying that PCs are going away, and people who want to install any software from anywhere on their device are also people who don’t have a problem spending time making sure the software they are installing is safe. However, there is a much larger number of people who don’t want to spend that time and want the simplicity of a post-PC device and it’s supporting ecosystem.
The risk that Google has is that this larger group of people is exactly who they wish to use devices running Android. Repeat incidents of malware and viruses finding their way on to Android smartphones and tablets is going to drive people to a different solution, regardless of how fast Google reacts to incidents. I think Google ignores this issue at their own peril, and they must must find a way to instill confidence in the Android Market. At a minimum, Google may lose app sales revenue to Amazon, at worse, Android may lose market share.