The Apple iPad opened the door for the real business tablets

Posted by Jason Langone   |   Monday, July 12th, 2010   |  

There have been hundreds of tweets about Wyse PocketCloud + Apple iPad; I even wrote about my experience with Wyse PocketCloud + iPhone and the positive end user experience. It certainly has opened up many eyes to the benefits of using a tablet device as a thin client connecting back to a fully functioning virtual desktop.

For those unfamiliar, Wyse PocketCloud is an application for mobile and tablet devices (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Android-based devices) that provides connectivity back to a virtual desktop environment powered by VMware View (using an optimized RDP engine instead of PCoIP). The solution is quite elegant and the UI of PocketCloud is fantastic.

The problem is the iPad.

Before I elaborate, let me state that I have an iPad, and I find it to be a handy and elegant device. I also prefer my iPhone to my Blackberry (forced to carry both). I even have a 27” iMac, so I’m donating to the AAPL cause regularly.

When I’ve shown iPhone/iPad + Wyse PocketCloud, I can see the light bulbs going off in people’s heads, especially in certain environments that may already be used to unconventional input devices.

What is the iPad missing?

• A customizable OS that still maintains warranty (no jailbreaking here)

• An x86 or x86-64-based processor

• The ability to install applications without the use of iTunes or the App Store

Why are these important points?

The enterprise has to deal with compliance, auditing, security and other requirements that are unique to their business. The iPad currently ships with iOS3, and will be running iOS4 in several months (like iPhones today). The problem is that iOS3 is not an OS that the enterprise is familiar managing, patching, securing or trusting when it comes to task worker activity.

An Android-based solution makes a lot more sense. Android is Linux based, which most organizations are already running in some capacity. By using an Android-based device, organizations can build their OS platform to their specific needs; their gold Android standard.

Most organizations have a Windows XP gold image that’s specific to their company’s own security requirements as well as focused on delivering a company-specific experience. By using an Android-based solution, organizations will have that level of flexibility and customization while still maintaining support for their device platform.

An x86-based processor is also a strong plus for upcoming tablets. While I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the A4 processor in the iPad or the ARMv7 processor found in Archos devices, the ability to take an existing x86 application and run it on a tablet is extremely appealing. It will be important that these applications eventually recognize that they are running on a tablet and can take necessary measures to deliver a great user experience (e.g. resolution, virtual keyboard invocation, cursor movement,…). Wyse PocketCloud is a good example of a clean interface on a tablet.

However, what if I could take the VMware View Open Client and simply run it on my tablet (or one that was particularly optimized for a tablet). I could now potentially have some of the features found in a fully functioning View client (2-factor authentication, for example) on my Android tablet, without paying for Wyse PocketCloud.

The Cisco Cius may make a ton of sense.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with a colleague to compile the VMware View Open Client on an ARM-based Android tablet. This conversation began a month or so ago when I heard from a jet-setting colleague that Android tablets are all the buzz throughout APAC, and I started to ponder the, “why” behind this thinking. It didn’t take me long to understand the potential of an Android-Linux solution. For the record, cross-compiling the VMware View Open Client for an ARM processor is not the easiest endeavor, in my opinion. Had this been x86-based, it would have taken minutes, not days (including research). A QEMU virtual machine can make cross-compiling for ARM a less daunting task.

Finally, the mandated use of either iTunes or the App Store to deliver applications may force security-minded organizations to look elsewhere for their application delivery. Instead, organizations will be able to refresh the image or use push technologies (or their own storefront) to deliver the applications.

So now what?

The potential is huge. Useful tablets coming to market in the year of VDI (arguably 2010-11) is further momentum to the overall VDI market. The momentum started last November when both Citrix and VMware released their latest incarnation of their respective VDI solutions. We are now two quarters removed from those product launches and both organizations have invested heavily in, “winning” the VDI battle this year. The jury is still out on who will win (or if there will even be one winner), but adding another user-connectivity profile into the mix can only help the VDI train continue to gain steam. The Cisco Cius may have all of the necessary components to explode: an existing channel that’s very strong, a name already familiar in the enterprise, and a tablet that focused on the enterprise (versus the consumer).

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