Apple at war: U.S. military issues Apple iPod touch, iPhone

“One [U.S.] soldier recently home from Iraq once tried to order an Iraqi man to lie down,” Benjamin Sutherland reports for Newsweek. “To get his point across, the soldier had to demonstrate by stretching out in the dirt. Translation software could help, but what’s the best way to make it available in the field?”

“The U.S. military in the past would give a soldier an electronic handheld device, made at great expense specially for the battlefield, with the latest software. But translation is only one of many software applications soldiers now need. The future of ‘networked warfare’ requires each soldier to be linked electronically to other troops as well as to weapons systems and intelligence sources. Making sense of the reams of data from satellites, drones and ground sensors cries out for a handheld device that is both versatile and easy to use. With their intuitive interfaces, Apple devices—the iPod Touch [sic] and, to a lesser extent, the iPhone—are becoming the handhelds of choice,” Sutherland reports.

“Using a commercial product for such a crucial military role is a break from the past. Compared with devices built to military specifications, iPods are cheap. Apple, after all, has already done the research and manufacturing without taxpayer money. The iPod Touch retails for under $230, whereas a device made specifically for the military can cost far more. (The iPhone offers more functionality than the iPod Touch, but at $600 or $700 each, is much more expensive.) Typically sheathed in protective casing, iPods have proved rugged enough for military life. And according to an Army official in Baghdad, the devices have yet to be successfully hacked,” Sutherland reports. “(The Pentagon won’t say how many Apple devices are deployed, and Apple Computer declined to be interviewed for this article.)”

Sutherland reports, “The iPod also fulfills the U.S. military’s need to equip soldiers with a single device that can perform many different tasks. Apple’s online App Store offers more than 25,000 (and counting) applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, which shares the iPhone’s touchscreen. As the elegantly simple iPods—often controlled with a single thumb—acquire more functionality, soldiers can shed other gadgets. An iPod ‘may be all that they need,’ says Lt. Col. Jim Ross, director of the Army’s intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors operations in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Boom!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “HMCIV” for the heads up.]

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