Is the iPad a Better Thin Client than a Workstation?


With the release of the Citrix client for the iPad I have to ask the question.  Is the iPad a better Windows 7 Tablet than any native device that PC Manufactures can create?  I want to look at the iPad as a serious Thin Client device.

I recently purchased an iPad to play around with at home.  I’ve always wanted a similar device that I can use in my day to day work as an Infrastructure support person.  I’ve often wished I had a light tablet form factor device that gave me access to Outlook, Sharepoint, Shared Data and Office while I’m in the Data Center(DC).

Other than configuring a router via a serial cable, I don’t have much use for a laptop in the DC.  What I do need is the ability to access mail, shared documents, administration tools and remote desktop applications on a screen larger than a mobile phone’s screen.  There have been many a time where I’d spend a couple of hours documenting something in my DC just to come back a couple of weeks later because I can’t read my own handwriting.  Windows based tablets and phones never did the trick.  They were either too heavy or to small to be useful.

I’ve had several Windows based convertible laptops.  I like the theory behind them.  A lot of people argue that Windows on a touch based device is a flawed concept.  I disagree.  The problem isn’t(just) Windows.  The problem is the lack of applications that are designed for a touch interface.  Windows does have problems scaling down power consumption and system requirements for a device this size but that’s another discussion.

I downloaded the free Remote Lite application from the iTunes store tonight to play around with connectivity to my desktop.

I was pretty impressed with this basic application.  After doing some research I discovered that a few more of the paid applications add some pretty interesting gesture based options to the interface.  I was able to move around in Windows pretty well.  Playing video wasn’t very effective but I believe this could be optimized.  It has the potential to solve a good number of complaints I have about the iPad – no Flash, Multitasking, Limited Storage, Printing and etc.

This got me to thinking.  I could see a larger developer like VMware or Citrix really enhancing this experience.  If they created a client and coupled it with one of their VDI solutions you’d have a really special combination of hardware and software.  Not just a great thin client but game changing remote computing platform when coupled with 3G.

Am I chasing a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist?  What other applications could this be useful to make the investment worth it?

Keith Townsend

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