Why the "Nirvana Phone" concept is still crazy, even with a Citrix X1 mouse

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!

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I totally agree with you. I also like the idea of the Nirvana phone, but at this point still not practical. Now, if by some magical way, the receiver app could beam a laser keyboard and by the same magic be able to stream to TVs without needing cables then maybe.... At that point I'd still need a mouse but I'd be willing to carry that.

The trick is the receiver needs to interface with the different TVs, not rely on Apple TV or similar technology.... And receiver would have to beam the keyboard so that it's not limited to a manufacturer....

We are very far out... But I still love the idea of the nirvana phone



Is the problem iOS and Apple's lockdown of the OS/device?

What if the nirvana phone was running Android or Windows Phone? Granted less people using WP, but peripherals and mutitasking are more suited to the use case. Maracas devices are easier to carry than adapters, VGA cables etc.


OK Brian, I’ll bite..

I think the Nirvana Phone vision continues to be appealing to many. Note the interest in the Microsoft Continuum phone to PC demos. Yes, it is taking far longer than expected from my original post in 2008. Although it was not that long ago we all had separate smartphones, cameras and GPS.


The Atrix was a good ( not great ) version 1.0. Unfortunately Motorola had other issues preventing them from further investment.

The X1 Mouse along with the Invoxia NVX 650 Dock marks an important milestone to achieve that Nirvana vision with a mainstream Smartphone the iPhone 6. This is not a generic solution for an open workplace cubicles or the mobile road warrior. However for those that have their own office at work and/or home this setup can make a lot of sense, especially for multitaskers with multiple displays & things going on. Today people use their smartphone more and more and their expensive deskphone is collecting dust. Plus they are keeping their iPhone plugged-in to get/keep charged. The Invoxia NVX 650 Dock provides a great high quality speakerphone ( actually 6 speakers ) plus the unique HDMI out the back connector. This along with a standard display, bluetooth keyboard, and X1 Mouse provides a stand alone or auxiliary Workspace that many could find appealing. For frequent texters, its nice to have the bluetooth keyboard as well. This setup could also be useful for certain conference rooms that need a good speakerphone and something to drive a large display for GoToMeetings etc.

We are not advocating bringing along the Dock, keyboard, cables etc for a mobile scenario, rather have one at your home and/or Office. ( I do recall you saying your bring along an Apple TV and cables when you travel .. That doesn’t sound too compelling .. )

This road to Nirvana is a journey and we are working on related projects like the Workspace Hub which will address additional use cases and obstacles such as open workplaces, wireless connections and cross platform support.


There is lot’s of room for further innovation. The game is not over ..


What do you think about the patent Samsung recently filed where you can dock a phone into a laptop shell and gain access to basically a weird chromebook/android combo?  www.theverge.com/.../samsung-android-smartphone-windows-laptop-dock-patent You'd resolve the issue of carrying cables with you (just dock it in the laptop shell and then you'd have the same options to plug into additional monitors or devices as wanted/needed.  Wouldn't involve much more than carrying a laptop, but would give you one less device to manage (just manage the user's phone instead of the phone and laptop) and give the user some flexibility in how they work.

Granted, right now, this is all still vaporware, but if brought to fruition could make the nirvana phone a more viable possibility, depending a lot on the software Samsung wraps around the whole contraption.


Brian, hope you have not forgot our Dock2office solution which we presented on Kickstarter last year. By the way we also tried X1 mouse and it works great !

But with Dock2office you get almost everything you want. Also on Horizon View, Microsoft Remote Client, Splashtop, Teamviewer and LogmeIn.


You're absolutely right, Brian. Isn't the bigger problem that the people in charge at Citrix didn't come to that conclusion by themselves?


I almost agree, but really think that arguing about the Nirvana phone obscures discussion about the Workspace Hub. I'm not sure if we have Chris or Tony Stark to thank for that, but that is the most impressive thing to come out of Citrix in years.

If Citrix isn't already talking to Dell about incorporating it directly into the next generation of Wyse thin-clients then it's missing a great opportunity.


Perhaps with iOS 9 Apple will be more Android like.  The problem right now is that there are too many limitations all have to do with iOS.  One thing about X1 Mouse is that it doesn't interact with the App, it only can click with a Citrix session.

On a Jailbroke iOS device you can use any mouse and it can click on everything.  Same with Android.



Perhaps with iOS 9 Apple will be more Android like.

On that day Steve Jobs will spin so fast in his grave that Apple will be able to power their Cupertino offices from the power generated.

The day that Apple go out of their way to support non-proprietary hardware is the day I give up drinking Mohito's.



Let me make your accessories list shorter

HDMI cable/ VGA adapter (Play it safe. Who knows if the tv will have HDMI or VGA?)/ VGA cable

Bluetooth keyboard ( Not required , Since Session has on screen keyboard), great if available

Citrix X1 mouse (Not required, trackpad), great if available

A phone-to-HDMI adapter,Bluetooth headset (Required in this case, but if you have apple tv and head sets this even these are not required )

From the demo , I gather that if you have some sort of external display ( VGA, HDML or apple tv) , the features added to receiver makes it easier to work . If you have BT keyboard, X1 mouse then even better.