iPad fever is going around, and we caught it! Is this the ultimate desktop virtualization client?

I wasn't going to write anything about Apple's iPad for fear of being labeled a "fanboy," but I just can't help it. Yes, I want one, even though the name kind of sucks.

I wasn't going to write anything about Apple's iPad for fear of being labeled a "fanboy," but I just can't help it. Yes, I want one, even though the name kind of sucks. (iSlate was cool, I thought.) Yes, it's mostly because it's Apple and it's almost sure to rock, especially because I already love my iPod Touch, iPhone, and MacBook Pro (although I am disappointed there was no mention of Intel's i5 processors going into a future MacBook).

Really what I'm excited about with regards to desktop virtualization is that Apple has created a very capable device that fits into the client device conversation that Brian and I talked about last week on Brian Madden TV. It's a classic unmanaged device that's completely decoupled from an organization and from any virtual desktops it might access.  Unlike a mobile thin client, which might have a browser or something, the iPad has many of the same features as a netbook.

During one of our VMworld 2009 BMTV episodes, we talked about Wyse PocketCloud and the practicality of using an iPod or iPhone as a thin client. We lamented that if it weren't for the small screen and lack of a keyboard, the app would actually be incredibly useful. At the time I suggested that the solution might be a bluetooth keyboard and mouse coupled with a broader video-out solution that went beyond just movies. The larger size of the iPad fulfills the latter requirement with its 1024x768 9.7" (24.6cm) screen. And while an external keyboard option doesn't yet exist for the iPhone (at least, not without jailbreaking), the iPad has the ability to plug into a keyboard dock or use a Bluetooth keyboard, essentially turning it from coffee table conversation piece into full-on client device.

I'm not suggesting that iPads will relieve any of today's client devices of their duties, but when compared to netbooks, I can see a decent use case building up. If I'm deciding between a netbook and an iPad, I'm taking a good look at what each offers me. Battery life and wireless connectivity are a wash (maybe even a little bit on the Apple side here). Apple is favored in the weight category by almost a pound, although that's not counting the keyboard dock. Screen size goes to the netbook, but not by much. (The largest netbook screens come in at around 11", and the popular Dell Mini 10 series screens are only 10.1"--less than half an inch larger than the iPad.) At that point, it really comes down to the OS and the hardware. All that said, I haven't bought a netbook yet because I didn't want another PC to manage: it just wasn't worth it for the small amount of horsepower running the big boy OS and big boy applications. In the case of the iPad, though, we have a device coupled with an OS and apps that are designed to run on it. That's a pretty tasty recipe.

Sure, the iPad has its shortcomings. No user-replaceable battery, no Flash support, no camera, no multitasking, and it doesn't run "true" Mac OS X, to name the big ones. The normal detractors will add that there's the built-in obsolescence (which is a decent point when looking through the eyes of a consumer). As an unmanaged remote access device, however, as long as it runs the client, we really don't care all that much as long as it continues to work.

I asked Brian about his thoughts of using the iPad as a desktop access client. Being a fellow fanboy, of course he was excited too. But he also pointed out an important caveat. "It's cool that you can hook up a keyboard to this thing. That will be great for running real Windows apps at 1024x768. But remember," he said, "Apple hasn't mentioned anything about Bluetooth mouse support. So that means that we'll be wiping our fingers on the screen to use the mouse in our remote Windows apps. While that will be cool at first (since it will instantly "touchify" every single app we have), after about ten minutes our arms will be tired and we'll just think 'This blows! I wish I had a normal mouse!'"

All that said, Apple isn't trying to make a remote access device.  Steve Jobs himself said they are a mobile device company, so it's up to the software makers to utilize the hardware as best they can.

I'm almost afraid to ask, but what do you think? (And try to keep your comments relevant to using the iPad in a desktop virtualization context. We don't need another blog post full of comments about how much people love or hate the device itself!)

 

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It's an interesting device, and time will see how useful it really is, but offline support is obviously out of the question.


Citrix receiver will work well on it, but will it be really useful for business? Don't think so. Give me an iphone or blackberry for occasional access to online apps when on the move and a small notebook that I can use offline and hotel/office/airport use any day.


The iphone/blackberry is compulsory anyway, and a keyboard/mouse and offline access to apps is essential for your main machine - imagine not being able to give a presentation in a meeting because there is no wifi or 3G signal?


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I'm excited about the use cases! I agree that it may not be the end-all virtualization client but will fit a great niche between full mobile device and laptop. I think most of us would prefer to lug along the full laptop when serious work is to be done. For brief email checking / responding / system monitoring the phone + ICA client works just fine.


What about the rest of those times? The hour in the airport terminal when some more serious emailing could happen (without the need to balance the heavy laptop at a gate), or some minor document work? I can imagine several scenarios where I could use the iPad to connect to the office where I'm not writing a huge document but need a bit more screen real estate to get some productive tasks done.


Even with this I'm sure there are many other ways in which people will use this device that we can't think of yet. I'm excited to see its release and see how people use it (both on the consumer end) and as a virtualization client.


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All it takes is for someone to write the app.  View 5 for iPhone OS? :-)


Citrix has a receiver for it already....


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Wyse PocketCloud is a View client for the iPhone, so it's already there, too.  Chris Fleck of Citrix threw up a blog showing the Citrix Receiver running in the iPad simulator earlier today: community.citrix.com/.../viewpage.action


Currently both apps scale up the size of the app to fill the screen, but it looks like you don't actually get a full res connection.  I fully expect both companies to have single app solution that works for both iPhones and iPads by the time it comes out, though.


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For me, this Rev A. iPad isn't all that it should be, but we knew that already - but having really given it some further thought - it does hint at a more generalised form of personal computing could potentially become common place for workers right across the spectrum, and it could be a great campus device also.


Ultimate desktop virtualisation client is probably a bit far out at this stage but as a capable casual one - absolutely.


Reality - for significant hours of Windows based work I'm not sure it'd stack on the 9.7in display - all day!?


- max res driven out over the VGA adapter is 1024x768 - is that still acceptable to people these days?


- and there is the mouse/pointer unknown


Would be great for the vendors to build the clients and allow customers/user the choice to see what works for themselves


TT


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i luv my iphone for so much that it can do, it replaced my Q1 which i no longer use, and im also a big fan of finger flicking and doing away with all the assessories is a plus for me!! besides the normal tasks, i am constantly watching tech vidcasts and reading my ebooks and safaribooks on it too when i dont have be pc handy!! i have been waiting on buying a kindle or a nook because i didnt want to buy into a particular format (like i did with HDdvd) but with the kindle software capable to work on the ipad and sync my itunes podcasts into one device is my biggest selling point!!


my biggest concerns is my iphone i can burn out my battery in a half day so im always charging it  up. hopefully the ipad gets better battery life?


the other concern i have is hopefully att can give some break to the existing iphone data plan users that currently have the data plans, i would hate to be paying for both, and i would even settle tethering my ipad to my iphone if possible?


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This is great new form factor to consume applications more than it is desktops. I would certainly entertain using published apps for the iPad. That to me is the most real world use case. PocketClould is BS on this just like HDX to XD. It's a about apps not the desktop for this type of device.l


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I initiatly was thinking the iPad would be yet another device primarily for personal use with casual access to business apps via XD/XA.


Since talking with customers and thinking about it I now think the impact will be more significant to desktop virtualization, here's why;


Vertical Apps ;


Healthcare - This may be perfect device for roaming Physicians.


Field Reps - Better form factor


Legal - Document centric apps


Others..


General Purpose :


Corporate campus roaming, less intrusize than sitting in meetings with an open laptop.


Thin client Altrnative - Instead of emplyeees running from thin clients they may ask for this one.


BYOD


This device may be the door opener for BYOC - No ethernet ports to worry about, No local work apps or data based on IT policy , Employee self serve support.  


Check out the comments that are coming into the blog post ( thanks for posting above Gabe )


community.citrix.com/.../9QDgBg


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I just don't see the business application of the iPad.  Sure it will be great for the loyalists, but I can't see too many business people trying to type on a flat surface effectively for long.  Or if they use a bluetooth keyboard, how does that work?  Educate me.  Does the iPad come with a stand of some sort so that it can stand horizontally on it's own or can it only be laid flat.


Apple has done a great job of taking IT to the consumer.  The products are not designed for business use, although they can be used that way, They are marketed and designed to be cool and for consumers.  Apple has been brilliant at it.  Make it easy to use compared to windows and give the power back to the user. I think iPad will blow up on the consumer side as it offers a cool interface to get to cool stuff.  Some will use it for business, but at the end of the day, it is a device for geeks like us and consumers.  Not a business minded person who wants a quick email from a phone or heavy use from a tablet/laptop.


Maybe I don't get it, but I see this as totally cool, not as functional as a laptop, but more functional than an iPhone and designed for consumers.  Not going to be widely used as a business device.  


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In my personal view, the iPad's future will be especially secure with the use of the device as a business tool, such as with the 2X Client for iOS (www.2x.com/.../ios)...it's a free download and lets you use Windows apps from your iPad, giving you application publishing and RDP Remote Desktop capabilities for free, in contrast to the Citrix Receiver and Wyse PocketCloud. Definitely worth a look.


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