The Land of the Free will soon be protected by...one of the least secure operating systems on the market. Android may not be great at stamping out malware or avoiding fragmentation, but it's apparently just what the US Army is looking for in a mobile OS. The Joint Battle Command-Platform is a prototype 'soldier/smartphone' currently in the testing phase. The Army thinks many of a smartphone's capabilities- like wireless radio and mapping and constant communication, would be useful in a battlefield.
In the wars of the future, beleaguered soldiers under fire will no longer have to scream into some radio for reinforcements. Instead, they'll send a text requesting back-up. Or maybe load up Google Talk to see which of their buddies reports being closer to the area. And, if they need something to pass the time while they wait for the A-10s to show up, there's always the Netflix app.
Wiring up every soldier carries some pretty huge advantages. Commanders will be able to see the exact position of every one of their men. All that location and activity data we complain about Google stealing from us? Well that's a selling point for the Army.
But this plan isn't without drawbacks. Al Qaeda has a sophisticated Internet presence. They'll start trying to crack these devices the instant they show up on the battlefield. If they get in, they could do an enormous amount of damage in a very short span of time.
The Army will obviously invest a significant amount of money into making their version of Android secure. But throwing cash at a security hole is no guarantee that it will be fixed. Hackers have compromised military data before. If amateur protesters can find a way, so can dedicated terrorists.
So what will be the next branch of the Armed Forces to take a side in the smartphone war? Will the Air Force go with Windows Phone 7? Is the Coast Guard eyeing MeeGo? Will the Marines choose iOS- or would they prefer the more practical webOS? And, most importantly, just how on earth does the DoD expect our men and women in uniform to focus on war when the Angry Birds app is right there just waiting to launch?