All I want to do is remotely control my old iPhone 3GS from my new iPhone 4S. It’s about 25′ away, hooked to a stereo, and used for iTunes and podcasts.
In the Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android worlds, that’s a job for VNC (virtual network computing). You install a VNC server on your device and control it using a VNC client (a.k.a. viewer), which you can run on an iOS device. In fact, it’s really kind of cool to control my Mac mini at home from my iPhone at work.
VNC has been around for almost 15 years now. The protocol is fully standardized. The risks are known and controlled. You need to find and link to the server, then use a password to validate the user. Apple Remote Desktop and Back to My Mac use VNC, so Apple must consider it sufficiently robust for Mac users.
VNC for All – But Not for iOS Users
So why isn’t there a single VNC server in the App Store? Why is the only iOS solution, Veency, one that requires you to jailbreak your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad? Not that I’m unwilling to jailbreak my old iPhone, since I’m basically using it as an iPod touch these days, but even that isn’t easy: Most jailbreaking software runs on Windows, and iOS 6.1.3 seems to be a tough nut to crack, which would mean downgrading to 6.1.2.
But why should it be so much work? After all, it’s my device, I determine the security parameters and password. I should be able to decide whether I consider VNC an acceptable risk or not, just as I do on my Macs. But Big Brother Apple has to protect me from myself.
It’s Not Just for Individual Users
Having a VNC server for iOS devices would be great for deploying iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches in the workplace. The IT department could connect to user devices, have them update software, make sure email settings are correct, verify that Dropbox is configured correctly, and be certain that unauthorized apps haven’t been installed.
VNC can also be used for training purposes, not to mention troubleshooting.
I love Apple’s hardware, new and old. I mostly love the operating systems. (I have yet to get my feet wet with OS X 10.7 or later, but that will probably happen when OS X 10.9 Mavericks is released.) I think they make some pretty good software.
Best of all, the Mac has always been a pretty secure platform with almost no malware – pretty good for a nearly 30-year-old platform! And by maintaining tight control over iOS apps, Apple keeps that platform even more secure.
If Apple believes that VNC constitutes such a significant security risk, you have to wonder why it’s on Macs. And if it’s not that big a risk, why isn’t it allowed on iOS? You can’t have it both ways.
Apple could specify certain levels of encryption and password security, as some extensions to VNC already do. Or if Apple wanted to be really, really secure, it could adopt its own alternative to VNC, perhaps something that is more efficient than pixel-based VNC – and with all the security Apple wants to give it.
Me, I just want to be able to pause the iPhone 3GS or adjust its volume without walking 25′. It would be even better if I could completely control the remote iPhone, so I don’t have to leave my work area to change playlists or select a podcast.
VNC would let me do this. Why Apple won’t let me choose it is beyond me.