Our military still has big projects like ships or moonbases that slingshot asteroids into Russian submarines, but for grunts—they call them "warfighters" this week—off-the-shelf rules the day. That's why the Army visited Apple.
It makes sense. Why spend billions making a battle-hardened mobile computers that will just end up behind the curve when you can buy a few thousand units off the shelf from Apple, slap 'em in some protective cases, and toss them onto the depleted uranium pile when they're broken?
Of course, the issue with military computers in general hasn't been the hardware, but the networking. Military equipment needs to interoperate securely (Even though that doesn't always happen so well.) Would that mean that Apple would allow the military to install their own firmware and network stack? Who knows!
"We're continuing to leverage commercial technology for battlefield uses; we can't ignore that kind of existing knowledge," he said. "Our job, as stewards of the taxpayer's dollar, is to adopt and adapt appropriate commercial technology and offer the best possible solution to the Warfighter."
The meeting was part of the Army's efforts to support "Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications," an initiative to demonstrate the technical capabilities of handheld devices and applications to the Army and gathering Warfighter. The working group is tasked with looking at how commercial cellular technology - including devices, applications and networks - could be utilized in a tactical environment.
The RDECOM communication and electronics center advises on applications and new equipment training and support application delivery to pilot programs in its role as the lead for CSDA applications development.
Within RDECOM, the Communications-Electronics Research and Development Center has developed numerous handheld command and control solutions and is supporting the development and transition of two iPhone applications: COIN Collector, a counter-insurgency information collection tool, and MilSpace, a combined planning and social networking environment.