The iPad is dropping soon. The question remains, how big of an opportunity is it for the enterprise? Today we take a look at the work being done by software virtualization leader Citrix to get ready for streaming applications to the iPad. And we find that it looks more promising than ever to move quickly to supporting a tablet experience in the four walls of the enterprise.
Building on the massive momentum of the iPhone, software virtualization (running non native apps directly from iPad) allows existing apps to run on iPad without changing them. Citrix Reciever, an application designed to bring streaming software from one machine to your iPhone is being prepared for the iPad, and will also be able to interact with existing Windows applications in production environments.
The Ultimate Mashup: iPad Enterprise-Ready on Day 1
If your application isn't designed for Safari, or uses media objects that don't run on the iPhone, using Citrix Receiver - along with some design considerations - can give you an amazing mobile-ready experience for your existing applications. The Citrix Community Blog takes a look on how to optimize your current Web applications and desktop tools for the iPhone and iPad.
Attention to Detail
We thought that perhaps all of this is too good to be true, so we reached out to Chris Fleck of the Citrix mobile team. Here's what we learned.
- Can iPad processor handle virtualized software and display it smoothly? The A4 1 ghz processor looks like its clearly up to the task of delivering Web and desktop applications to the device and rendering them in real-time. The Citrix Receiver is already working on the iPhone, so at first glance it looks like scaling up to the bigger screen size scales nicely with the faster processor.
- What about the issue of background processing? This was one of the obstacles we were initially wary of. Today, the iPhone does a great job of enabling hooks within applications to remember the state of the application when it shuts down, so when going back there's the same map or email. Citrix Receiver does a similar thing, but even goes further by allowing the application to continue (if wanted) to run in the background on the host. And, according to Fleck, IT can set a policy on whether the application requires a new logon or not based on your preferences.
- Can it be branded and have my own icon? So, we wondered, can a team customize this experience so it carries the proper branding? Citrix Receiver allows you to drop a custom icon onto the desktop of the application, which is preset to a specific location on the homescreen of the iPhone/iPad and to a specific Citrix hosted app.
- Screen size. Steve Jobs said on stage at the Jan. 28 event, iPad is "the best Web browsing experience you'll ever have." One of our questions was whether the iPad would work well for existing applications. The good news as reported by Fleck on his blog: "It turns out the 9.7 inch display on the iPad with a 1024x768 screen resolution works great for a full VDI XenDesktop. Windows applications run unmodified and securely in the data center, and even multiple applications at once."
- Interactions: Mouse, gestures, landscape? Okay, so this is area that is going to be hard to confirm until we touch it, but we asked some hard questions. First, whether gestures will be supported, such as swiping, zooming, and the virtual keyboard. The answer is yes. Those are in the iPhone Receiver application now and are being worked on behind the scenes. In short, with the native functions in the iPhone SDK and some design work by Citrix, a good experience will be delivered out of the box.
- What about video, Flash, or processor heavy applications? One use that we expect to be important is the use of streaming protocols. This is an area where it is not yet clear that the processor has enough juice to keep up with streaming video. In exploring this with the Citrix team, we discussed ways to use smart application design (e.g. moving the video streaming out of the Receiver and into native apps) so that streaming video or Flash applications with lots of screen activity are optimized for viewing on the mobile device. Standard Flash applications should be no problem at all. It's is something that is still speculative in our minds, but this could very well be a place where a mixed-mode design could support streaming needs and also support the native Web applications.
- Peaceful co-existence: Native vs. non native apps joined as one? This is one of the areas we dove into. Is it possible for a user to have a great experience when in the virtual session and then go back and forth to native applications? Apple, by being forward thinking in the integration of Web applications has provided several tools to make this easier. First, proxy settings to open up native apps when links are clicked, and the ability to drag the virtual apps (like Web apps) to the home page of the iPad or iPhone go a long way in giving the tools to developers.
Citrix Receiver does part of the work by creating a way for a Web link to have a custom icon and can "remember" its session so that when the application is clicked on, it goes to the right place in the virtual application. What does this mean? Since Safari is running on the iPhone/iPad and can not display a Receiver app at the same time, the real enterprise app could be running on a Citrix server and quickly reconnected after leaving Safari.
Health Care Opportunity
opportunity of an iPad-like device in health care. In the context of virtualization leading the way to enterprise adoption, the hospital may be sweet spot for innovation.A few weeks back, we explored the
If you're an EPIC or Cerner shop already, you are likely using software virtualization to deploy EHR (electronic health records) to your PCs in your hospitals. Citrix is already in this software virtualization space with its XENDesktop and XENApp products. Right now, we can picture the smiles on the folks in Kaiser Permanente's IT team. Their jobs just got more interesting, an effect we expect to see rippling across the industry.
Microsoft Windows: Applications get another client, and Microsoft wins in keeping its customers happy in supporting the newest innovation in technology.
Apple: The iPad will be able to run native apps and virtualized enterprised apps at the same time. A new opportunity in the iEnterprise and more sales into the channel. Perhaps it will take the iPad to finally bring the iPhone inside as well.
Citrix: It goes without saying that the XENDesktop and XENApp clients will rely heavily on this capability. New customers may emerge, and existing customers will get massive value from their existing relationships with Citrix.
Epic and Cerner: This is a bit harder to predict, but we suspect that even though these vendors are moving forward with their native iPhone applications, it can only be good news to see their existing products get support from the iPad. With this, the work of optimization can begin. In the future, we can see tuning one of these applications to enable "virtual but custom" views on the iPad and iPhone, while supporting investments already in place today.
Cisco's network: Having been a Cisco employee for five years in the past, I always like it when the network wins. Here, it clearly does, where streaming applications in real-time saves time and money, and then brings more value to real-time connections
Users everywhere: And finally, those of us who spend time in the large enterprise. It just wouldn't be fair for another class of cool technology to pass by the knowledge workers. This might be the time to investigate for your team how you might be able to get iPad in your hands - sooner than later.
Are you thinking of iPad and have XENDesktop today? Do you see holes in this approach to bringing the tablet to the enterprise?