Apple iPads are out and Samsung tablet computers are in — at the Kremlin. Russia's telecom minister made the announcement Wednesday, taking a swipe at the popular hand-held device from the Cupertino, California-based Apple when he said that iPads are no longer good enough for Kremlin apparatchiks to use for storing "confidential information."
Since the United States and other Western nations announced tough sanctions against Moscow in retaliation for Russia's annexation of Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that would impose his own sanctions against the West. But the Kremlin maintains that its sudden trashing of Apple iPads in favor of the U.S. company's Korean competitor is not intended as a show of hostility toward America.
"We are not proposing any sanctions," said the official, Nikolai Nikiforov, who added that the switchover from iPads to an unspecified make of Samsung tablet "took place not so long ago."
Samsung struck a deal with Moscow to be the "official" computer of the recently completed Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, where people using Apple iPads in public were required to cover up the distinctive Apple logo on the back.
According to Nikiforov, the tension over the Russian annexation of Crimea and other possible Putin machinations was the real reason that Apple iPads got the Kremlin boot.
The Russians were afraid the American-produced product could be used by high-tech secret agents for purposes of espionage.
"American special services will significantly increase the volume of information they intercept (which) of course causes serious concern to many governmental clients," noted Nikiforov. "This obviously orientates Russian clients, primarily state ones, to be very choosy about their partners in IT."
The Kremlin concern may not be entirely unjustified. According to classified U.S. government documents that were among the massive amount of data leaked by fugitive whisteblower Edward Snowden, was the note that the U.S. National Security Agency was able to access Apple iPhones and iPads through a flaw in security software installed in the devices.
Apple reportedly fixed that "back door" earlier this year. But Putin is perhaps feeling it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to being spied on by the Americans.
The Samsung tablets that replaced Apple iPads within the Russian government are not the same products available to the general public. Samsung installed an extra layer of security so that even top secret information stored on the tablets should be safe.
Or so the Kremlin hopes.
It appears that Russia did not trust Apple to add a similar degree of security to their iPads.