If you think delivering Windows apps to iPads will keep users happy, you’re in trouble!

If IT's idea of enabling iPads and other mobile devices is to allow users to connect to Windows desktops and applications through remote desktop clients, then users are sure to be driven to third-party applications.

If IT’s idea of enabling iPads and other mobile devices is to allow users to connect to Windows desktops and applications through remote desktop clients, then users are sure to be driven to third-party applications. “Of course we enable consumerization! Our employees can use an iPad client to connect to a virtual desktop anytime they want,” is just another way of saying, “We really don’t understand consumerization at all, so let’s just have the users resort to whatever random applications and services they happen to find.”

Remote desktop clients for mobile devices are getting better all the time, and Bluetooth keyboards and virtual trackpads on touchscreens make desktops on mobile devices able to approach being usable. However, there are a few vital flaws with having remote desktops be the solution for enabling mobile device usage.

First of all, who wants to use a full desktop OS when there are device native apps around? (Which email app would you rather use for your iPad--remote hosted Outlook running on Windows via a remote display protocol, or the device native mail app?) If I want a full desktop, I’ll reach for my laptop. Users are sophisticated enough that they differentiate between use cases for their devices. People who want to do real work on their tablets are probably already carrying Bluetooth keyboards around, meaning that they’re carrying around just as much weight as a MacBook Air or an Ultrabook.

Second, there’s the no offline access problem. (Enough said!)

Both of these problems could result in one of two scenarios: In the first scenario, the user reaches for their laptop instead of the mobile device. (After all, it’s pretty light, it’s more powerful then a tablet, it can actualy be used for real typing, and it does everything!) If the device that is now being ignored is corporate owned, then it becomes a $500 paperweight. Also if it’s corporate owned, it’s probably limited just a few company approved applications. If these applications are a just a remote desktop client and maybe some PIM stuff, then what exactly was the company wasting its money on when it bought the tablet?

In the second scenario, if the user brought in their own tablet, then it’s “Hello device native apps!” The remote desktop client will be ignored, just like on a corporate-owned device, but since this tablet isn’t corporate managed, the employee can use it to access corporate data with whatever apps make them the most productive. Will these apps be secure? Who knows? All the employee knows is that they can now be much more productive. The corporate firewall can be circumvented using any one of the traditional methods: Dropbox (or whatever file sharing/syncing service hasn’t been noticed and blocked by the IT department yet), applications that feature their own synching, or the simplest method of all, emailing data to a personal account.

If an IT shop has gone as far as providing users’ devices with access to corporate data, then that’s a great start. That company has made a good faith effort, whether it was with something like a corporate Box account or with software that provides access to the company’s own storage. Unfortunately, simply providing access to the data itself is not going to be enough. Did that company restrict users’ “open in” capabilities? If not, then they have opened the door and put out the welcome mat for crazy, unsecure third party applications. If the company did restrict what users can do with data once it’s on mobile devices, will the amount of access be satisfactory? In addition to providing access to the data itself, IT has to provide or whitelist appropriate applications. If none of the tools that employees really want to use are provided, then it's back un-trusted third-pary apps. (FUIT in action.)

Whether employees are using company owned tablets or if there’s a BYOD program in place, IT must go the whole distance and provide not only access to data but also applications to work with it. If only it were as easy as just providing a remote desktop client... Unfortunately, users will not be satisfied and will want a device native experience. If native apps are not provided by IT, then users will head to possibly unsecure third-party applications and services. 

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

Spot on!  This is one of the biggest nails in the coffin of VDI.


Interesting piece. However you offer no solutions, is that because there isn't one?


Well said.

Let's also not forget that most "legacy" apps in industries such as healthcare were designed for a keyboard and mouse, not a touch screen interface. Seattle Childrens Hospital discovered this after rolling out iPads to deliver Cerner apps.  Medical professionals returned them as unusable.

As with VDI, it's a case of the right tool for the right job. One size does not fit all.


Completely agree Jack.  Users will always want to run local apps if possible -- would you run Outlook on VDI instead of the iPad mail connected to Exchange if you had a choice?  No iPad user would answer "yes" to that question.  

It will have to be a combination of using local iPad apps whenever possible and app virtualization (not VDI) for legacy apps -- but the same files/data across both.  


Like scotty once said, "I canna break the laws of physics captain!".

Some apps are possible as native tablet apps.  agreed.

But some of this is pointless right now because tablets are not a good form factor for running all apps.  Some people are totally enamored with them to the point that they don't want to use anything but.  To that I've gotta say, too bad, so sad, cause it's not workable right now.

Tablets just aren't to the point yet where they're usable for all use-cases.  They're too constrained by their small size (both for computing power, and screen size).

Their very design & form factor ensures that they're a much better consumption device than a producer device.  If you don't know the difference then you're probably not qualified to talk about this.

Hence why the most productive way to use them (currently) is as a remote access device.  As the article itself mentions, laptops are better in virtually every way anyway...so why are you so insistent on using tablets?  oh right, laptops don't make you look as cool to your friends.


It depends on applications, users and use cases.

As always, one size does not fit all.

For example some users are looking for smaller and smaller devices (or lighter and lighter both are valid) to accomodate usages that are more and more relying on traveling for example.

For sure, all task workers would like a tablet for example, but is the tablet the right device for them ? Do they really need a thiner device ? Would they really need a BYOC / BYOD or a MacBook AIR ? For some yes (like the one working in big shops or warehouses) but not for all of them.

That's the question to ask yourself when you're building the application / desktops delivery strategy and considering all use cases.

iPad is nice when you're not sitted or do not need to write something really long, when you have a to really write, a keyboard is better.

But again, it's nice for VPs, Execs, Sales Reps ... not for everyone !

You can then have two devices, and switch between them according to use cases.

Regarding offline use, it could be a mess but, in lots of cases, what is the value of offline synced datas ? Regardings stocks for example, orders or production queues?

In most cases, when you want datas, you want fresh datas, not the last synced ones.


100% agreed, this is what we based our (Cortado) concept for the corporate cloud desktop on


This is a good article and some great feedback from everyone here. I did like the references you made 'nanuk2' about tablets currently are best used for 'consumption of information' whilst laptops and desktops are still the dominant platform for 'production'. This is a good way of looking at this.

I have an iPad and I love it. It is great for browsing, twitter, facebook, linkedin, email etc etc, but as I'm getting more into photography, although I can import my photos onto the tablet and do basic manipulation, the amount of times I wish I could put the iPad down and pick up a Macbook to do some simple edits or changes is becoming more frequent. (I don't have one.... yet!)

This is the same conversation I have with customers and execs who love the idea of kitting out their staff with tablet devices, and high praise to them for seeing the market trends and wanting to attract the more 'facebook generation' of recruits. When we then discuss practicality of remote desktop for their apps and other such issues, the smiles soon disappear as realisation sets in.

If you can then take the CEO to the next stage of the conversation and introduce device specific application possibilities, the smile soon returns.

I think it is a journey and you need to steer the execs who quite rightly want to walk this path of consumerisation down the right track. It's amazing the difference it makes during workshops when the penny drops and they are enthused about the possibilities they hadn't initially considered.

Good comments by all on here. Nice to see others going through the same process.... :)


Existing WIndows applications do not work well with touch-only devices. Eventual use is fine, but anything else is not.

However, don't mix the issues here. This problem is really about the legacy apps, written for large screens, keyboards and mouse. There's nothing wrong with  notion of delivery itself.

Coming Win8 and Metro, we'll see tablet use of virtual apps and desktops to become totally acceptable.


So what is your answer for a finance customer with sensative data and is afraid of having emails stored offline on a less secure device? That is a Byod?

I agree to all what you said but how do you protect data in such environment and you don't want to rely on ipad security alone when using he native mail client on the ipad?



is Keynote the same on Mac and iPhone ?

Same feature set ? Same UI ?

Why MSFT could not do the same adaptation ?...

useless debate... Of course, it is not perfect to deliver apps from one world (mouse/keyboard based to a touch world and vice versa) but it is a today solution that exist (and work quite well for using since 2 years Windows remoted application to my iPad)...


I almost think this is spot on.  The author makes valid points -- but in reality his position is still too purist for it to be reality for every major segment of users.  In my opinion, a number of the comments are more spot on in that there are niche uses for business users for those types of apps.  I won't bore people with what those are -- because if you spent even 10 min thinking about it -- I am sure you might be able to come up with 1 or 2.


MAYBEJack ur rite... MAYBE users would wana uae local apps instead of An remote hosted Outlook... N i say MAYBE bcoz i would like to look at it as an additional option provided to the by VDI. He could be more comfortable with his Outlook o even with his windows desktops. This would be true in case of non IT users aswell. The choices for mankind is on the rise n thrs no denying that....


@ Kata: re Keynote. It is not the same Keynote on the Mac and the iPad, never mind the iPhone.

Keynote for iPad loses a lot of the functions it offers on the Mac.

This proves the point that not all devices are created equal, and that you need to select the right tool for the job.


Jack, I think you are bang on with this.

I think this is driven by the end user.

Firing up a bespoke native app is a more familiar scenario than open one remote desktop app then start another app within that app then log in etc etc.

Re: legacy applications. Assuming these are database driven the development process for exposing some of the data to Native applications is actually relatively straightforward.

Alot of the considerations are around wether you want to expose that data outside the organisation at all.

A single native app can be written for iOS across the hardware platoforms but a Remote destktop app would be useless on an iPhone.