Laptops need "device native" applications just like iPads!

The preference for device native applications includes laptops, too!

Last week, Brian wrote about why he considers his desktop (that runs local applications) to be a “cloud desktop.” (That article in one sentence: it’s because even though his apps and data are local, they’re all downloaded from and synchronized by the cloud.) A few weeks before that, I wrote about the importance of device native applications for tablets. (And that article in one sentence: not many people will want to use a remote desktop on a tablet when tablet native applications are around.) Put those two together and the logical thought is: “Of course! The preference for device native applications includes laptops, too!”

There are some major differences, however, between the need for native tablet applications and the need for local laptop applications. The case for native laptop and PC applications isn’t as clear cut as it is with tablets.

With a tablet, it’s easy to recognize why a hosted desktop (VDI, TS, or a blade) accessed with a remote desktop client is less than satisfactory, with all the required pinching and zooming and difficulty navigating a mouse and keyboard-centered environment with a touch screen. When accessing a hosted desktop from a PC or laptop, things are a lot smoother. The user is clicking and typing away, the way the applications were meant to be used. The issue of usability, from an ergonomic standpoint, is solved. The issue that is left behind is remote execution.

When accessing a hosted desktop from a corporate office, a user is less likely to notice the drawbacks of accessing a hosted OS than if they’re on the road working off of a laptop. In the office, whether working on a thin client, zero client, or a full PC, they have a good, fast LAN connection that rarely goes away. But when on a road with a laptop, remotely-accessing a hosted desktop becomes an unpleasant (or impossible) experience.

These are known drawbacks to server based computing, and ways of addressing them exist. But just like with tablets, the consumerization of IT provides alternatives. If the IT department took the position that a remotely accessed desktop is the solution for when a user is on the road and there’s no offline solution offered, then the user is driven out into the wilds of consumerization (or FUIT, depending on how you look at it). They can get their data onto the local device in all the usual ways—Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote, whatever. Then, just like with a tablet, the data is outside of the corporate environment and unmanaged.

A user will then have created their own local environment like the one that Brian described, but this isn’t for everyone. There are a lot of advantages that come with interacting with the exact same hosted environment every time, regardless of how it’s accessed, and for some users that will be more important than having a native, local experience, either on a tablet, a laptop, or both. For users that want to build a “cloud desktop” consisting of local applications synchronized by the cloud, there are a lot of moving parts to plug in. There are a bunch of cloud services to plug in to, plus all that software to re-install, and then other little details, like custom dictionaries. That’s too much to manage for some users.

Just as tablet native applications can’t be ignored in favor of various forms of remotely-accessed hosted desktops, local device native applications are important for laptop and desktop users as well. I’ll admit that the scenario that I described is highly unlikely, but it is possible (especially in BYOC situations) and worth keeping in mind when planning application and desktop delivery strategy.


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First, it will be interesting to see if it will be possible to remote the Windows 8 Metro UI to tablets. That way you won't have the form factor change (desktop UI to touch UT) and thus it will be possible to remote it without users wanting to kill themselves.

But back to the point of your article, one thing that's cool is we're getting close (not there yet, but close) to offline apps delivered via HTML5. For example, works offline via chrome if you have the right extension installed.. you can view your messages, compose new ones, etc. Same is true for Google Docs (though they're read only while offline.

I guess my point is that you're suggesting that "device native" equals "running locally", which is true, but "device native" doesn't even have to be "apps written for that specific OS." Rather device native can be "works offline" and "is meant to be used with a keyboard and mouse." ..which is great, because deploying Chrome apps is way easier than deploying Windows apps.


The world of computers is at risk of repeating itself. The world of computers is at risk of repeating itself. Maybe I'm getting old but having been a games writer in the 1980s, you always wrote the game to match the device. It also amusing as we seem to be saying that "native apps will always be better" user experience wise which has always been the case and I suspect always will be.


@Rob good point made. Sometimes we get burried in a typically geeky way in this whole virtualisation world and perhaps over complicate the problem in front of us, or perhaps even generate a problem that isnt there.

I would agree that we have always had 'native applications for laptops' as this is where the whole PC experience began back in the 80's.

@Brian I think you hit the nail  on the head in that what we are really talking about here is 'off-line application' capabilities for devices that were once predominantly on-line for access to corproate systems and how we now make these laptops productive whilst off the network.