Windows 7: the iPad's Killer App?
The iPad is a terrible enterprise computing device. It has limited connectivity options and no multitasking capability, and it's generally a bad corporate citizen. When I hear other pundits talk about the recently announced Citrix Receiver software for iPad as some kind of silver bullet for currying the device's acceptance within the datacenter -- ostensibly by turning it into a Windows-addled zombie -- I shake my head in disbelief. The iPad ? Reduced to the role of a thin client for accessing Windows VMs and terminal sessions? Are you serious?
Never mind the absolute crap storm such a blatant misappropriation would generate at 1 Infinite Loop ("Hey Steve-o, guess what people are doing with your shiny new iToy?") -- such logic completely ignores the all-important fact that the iPad makes a pathetic thin client.
[ Does the iPad support Exchange and other business technologies that the iPhone does? Apple won't say -- see what other iPad questions Apple won't answer. ]
For starters, there's the lack of a keyboard and mouse . Because we can assume that most of these Citrix Receiver sessions will be connecting to some kind of Windows instance on the back end (the popular example seems to be Windows 7 -- go figure), the absence of a proper input mechanism will severely hamper productivity. Even if you could somehow kludge Windows' pen and/or touch capabilities to work across the thin client divide, chances are good that the resulting user experience will be clunky at best.
Then there's the issue of device integration. Both Citrix and Microsoft have made great strides toward improving the remote Windows terminal experience. You can now connect a variety of devices to a terminal services session using the Remote Desktop Protocol's USB redirection support. And when you step up to the more advanced Citrix client, you gain support for rich media applications, including those that incorporate 3-D rendering.
You can even connect a camera through the latest version of Citrix Receiver, which is ironic since -- of all the devices you might choose as a thin client -- the Apple iPad is one of the few that lacks a Webcam. The same goes for the USB ports that, if available, would have made for a much more flexible thin-client end point (assuming Apple didn't lock them down -- it's shown a penchant for restricting such access points of late).
But perhaps the most damning counterargument is that the Citrix Receiver for iPad is really a solution looking for a problem. The big draw for this proposed use case seems to be "running Windows 7 on an iPad." But if that truly is the goal, there are better -- and far less expensive ways -- to accomplish this.