At Citrix Synergy last month, Citrix gave every attendee a free Citrix X1 mouse. This mouse, if you haven’t heard, is a Bluetooth mouse that can pair with an iPhone or iPad to let you have a real mouse in a remote Windows session from your iOS device. It works because it’s not a “real” mouse (which is against Apple’s iOS rules), rather, it’s a custom Bluetooth device which only works with the Citrix Receiver app which has a lot of mouse-like abilities.
I really like the X1 mouse. Good move by Citrix. Brilliant way to work around Apple’s restrictions, and it’s existence is certainly not a bad thing.
So far much of the focus around the X1 mouse has been on using it with an iPad. You take an iPad, add a Bluetooth keyboard or one of those keyboard cover combo things, add the X1 mouse, and bam!—you have real Windows apps from your iPad. Ok, so if it’s me I’m just going to use an ultrabook, but fine, I get the concept, and yeah, it’s cool.
So anyway during Synergy’s main keynote, the demo of the Citrix X1 mouse showed using it with an iPhone, not an iPad. The idea was that you have the HDMI output plug on your phone, you pair a Bluetooth keyboard, add the X1 mouse, and bam!—your iPhone is now a fully functioning thin client, and you can get your Windows apps and desktop from whatever the nearest screen device happens to be.
When I saw this I thought, “Ooooohhhh. So that’s what the X1 mouse is about. So many people are talking about it being used to turn an iPad into a laptop, but it’s equally as valuable turning an iPhone into a thin client."
This is a sort of continuation of the Nirvana Phone concept that Citrix’s Chris Fleck has been writing about for years. In fact I got a demo from him of all this coming together at Synergy:
In the video, my reaction was along the lines of “Oh wow, that’s cool!” And I really did feel that way at that time. But once the camera was off and I had a few days to let everything sink in, I realized this latest iteration is no better than the existing Nirvana Phone concepts, and my previous thoughts about how useless the Nirvana Phone concept is still apply. (My previous posts on the Nirvana Phone are here and here. The second one might be one of my favorite posts or all time.)
Why the Nirvana Phone concept still does not make sense
The Nirvana Phone concept is one of those things that seems like a brilliant and amazing idea when you first think about it, (and it makes for a great demo), but when you take a step back and think about how you’ll actually use it, the concept starts to fall part.
For example, in order to use the Nirvana Phone as a portable thin client / “desktop in your pocket”, you need to carry the following accessories with you:
- A phone-to-HDMI adapter
- HDMI cable
- Bluetooth keyboard
- Citrix X1 mouse
- Bluetooth headset (so you can talk on the phone while it’s hooked into the rig)
- VGA adapter (Play it safe. Who knows if the tv will have HDMI or VGA?)
- VGA cable
You would need a whole separate zipper bag just to hold all this stuff! And think about this from a practical standpoint? What user who wasn’t an absolute tech lover would go through all the rigamarole to get this contraption put together? How much do all these things cost? How easy is it too keep track of everything? And all for what, so I don’t have to bring a laptop with me? Why wouldn’t I just use a $300 Chromebook if all I care about is my remote Citrix desktop? (And that would be all I care about, because mobile apps don’t do well on large screens. If you want to do your work on the large screen then you’ll do it from your Citrix session, not via the local app on the phone.
No no no! You’re missing the point. It’s for office users...
At this point when I’m going through my rant about why carrying all this stuff doesn’t make sense, fans of the Nirvana Phone concept cut me off and say, “No no no! It’s not about people taking all that stuff with them, it’s about companies providing everything necessary to have docking stations. (This is what the music dock + HDMI out thing from the video is all about.)
But still, think about everything the corporate Nirvana Phone docking station needs. We need a Bluetooth keyboard which is more expensive than a regular keyboard (not to mention it needs batteries which is another thing to track), we have a Citrix X1 mouse which will cost more than a regular USB mouse (again with batteries), we need a monitor that’s expensive enough to have HDMI, and we need this fancy iPhone dock with a speakerphone and handset which I’m sure costs hundreds of dollars.
Oh yeah, and then this expensive, complex solution only works with iPhones, so if employees have other devices they’re S.O.L.
Tell me . . . what exactly is the benefit of this over a normal thin client? So users can use iOS apps on LCD monitors? That doesn’t make sense since iPhone apps are touch and the Citrix X1 mouse doesn’t work with apps other than the Citrix receiver. Plus what iOS apps make sense on the big screen? Isn’t that was desktop and web apps are for?
Is the story that we have our “data” with us at all times? What does that even mean? What “data” is on the iPhone that is not in the cloud already that isn’t accessible from the desktop and web apps I use?
Again, why aren’t we just providing thin clients for the users? They’re most certainly cheaper, they’re managed in normal traditional ways, and they allow the user to use whatever type of phone they want.
Nirvana Phone concept? Strike three.
*No disrespect to Chris btw. Let's keep this conversation going. Prove me wrong Chris!