US Army leaders visit Apple campus to discuss future mobile devices

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Leaders of the U.S. Army's technology command visited Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus earlier this month to talk about existing products, including the forthcoming iPad, and the development of new, user-friendly technology for use on the front lines.

Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, commanding general with Research, Development and Engineering Command, was joined by key members of his staff on the visit to Apple headquarters on March 5, the Army announced this week. Apple's "it just works" philosophy in particular has caught the Army's eye, as the military agency hopes to create future devices that are simple to use for its soldiers on the battlefield.

"Apple technologies offer unique and proven solutions with intuitive designs that allow users to learn quickly without a training manual," Ron Szymanski, lead computer scientist with the Army's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, reportedly said. "The Army would like to leverage Apple's experience when designing military operations."

The tour allowed the military officials to see Apple's laboratories and other facilities. Members of the Army also provided the company of examples where existing Apple products are in use on the battlefield. The report noted that the Army's research and development command is currently evaluating a number of handheld solutions from Apple, including the forthcoming iPad, as well as the iPhone, iPod, iMac and MacBook platforms.

The Army's use of Apple products has been growing for years. In 2008, it was revealed that the military had employed custom iPods for on-the-spot translating in Iraq. The new method offered soldiers the ability to translate with technology a fraction of the size and cost of the previously utilized technology.

Photo courtesy U.S. Army, credit C. Todd Lopez

The Army has also used Macs in its IT infrastructure to deter potential hacking attempts, and just last October implemented Apple hardware for video surveillance installations. The Mac hardware was selected, officials said, for security purposes.

This week's latest report noted that the Army's Communications-Electronics Research and Development Center has developed numerous command and control solutions for handheld devices like the iPhone. Currently, the agency is supporting the development and transition of two new iPhone applications: a counter-insurgency information collection tool known as COIN Collector, and a combined planning and social networking environment dubbed MilSpace.

In addition, the Army's official science and technology blog, Army Technology Live, reportedly released a public iPhone application last month, providing news, updates and media to military personnel all from one location.