I have an iPad, so why do I need a virtual desktop?

I have an iPad, so why do I need a virtual desktop?

Summary: Many iPad users question the need for a Windows virtual desktop when the iPad has everything necessary to work as a remote computer.

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Why should Apple iPad users bind themselves to a Windows desktop, even if it's virtual? The short answer is, "They shouldn't." And, why should they--or we? The iPad has all of the necessary client software to connect to and to use most every business data that exists. It also has built-in VPN software to make secure connections back to the office from remote locations. Web-enabled apps make it pointless to care which device connects to them. I'm afraid that virtual desktops created for the sake of a consistent environment is redundant and uneccessary. As long as you can open documents, SharePoint sites, web sites and email, you're in business. Thanks a bunch but no thanks; virtual desktop not needed.

The iPad is the ultimate in ultraportable remote computing platform. The small form facto--but much much larger than phone screen--makes it perfect for remote computing. That said, you really couldn't type on the on screen keyboard for an extended period of time unless you're really into shrinking your available screen space by half.

For extended work, I suggest using the bluetooth keyboard. Apple's bluetooth keyboard is comfortable to type on and can be used for prolonged periods with no issues and no on screen keyboard blocking half of your view.

With the iPad in "full screen mode" and a bluetooth keyboard, you basically have yourself a laptop computer. So, why the pressure to use a Windows virtual desktop with an iPad?

Your guess is as good as mine on that topic. However, I have some ideas of the reasons from a corporate point-of-view:

  • Everyone uses Windows Virtual Desktops regardless of client OS or device.
  • We require that all data be accessed via Windows Desktops to avoid corruption.
  • We want to maintain a consistent desktop environment so that the Helpdesk isn't inundated with requests for multiple operating systems.
  • We don't care how you connect to the Windows Virtual Desktops--just that you do.

I understand all of the above reasons but I don't necessarily agree with them. You do have to comply with your corporate policies, so if your company requires that you connect to and use a Windows Virtual Desktop with your iPad, then you must do so. 

If you truly desire to protest, then don't bring your iPad to work. Take whatever hardware you're given from the company and use it. Happily enjoy yourself and your iPad off of the corporate grid. You can't say you didn't try.

I've written at least one article on using an iPad as a remote terminal for Linux systems. You can use the iPad as a remote terminal for Windows servers as well. But, the thought of connecting to another computer to create letters, use email, and open spreadsheets seems a little primitive to me--as in going the wrong direction with technology.

Sure, it's OK to do that with dumb terminals, smart terminals or even web-based systems but to totally deny that the iPad is a full-fledged computer that's capable of being a desktop system on it own is short-sighted at best. And, you probably don't want to know what I think of it at worst.

Talk back and tell me if you have to connect to a Windows Desktop with your iPad or if you're able to use it as a full desktop on its own.

Topics: iPad, Consumerization, iOS

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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29 comments
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  • I agree and the myth that it's only a toy or for content consumption only

    can't end fast enough.

    VPN technology is important and necessary but misused if a user's iPad simply becomes a ten inch virtual all-in-one "slow" desktop PC.
    kenosha77a
  • I think your crazy

    "For extended work, I suggest using the bluetooth keyboard. Apple's bluetooth keyboard is comfortable to type on and can be used for prolonged periods with no issues and no on screen keyboard blocking half of your view."

    I'm going lug around two pieces of hardware insteard of a full size laptop.....I don't think so

    Use the right piece of hardware for the right job and forget about mixing and matching hardware just because you can do it............The next thing you'll be telling people to do ......We can a real neet spread sheet on a I-Phone just because their is a appt that can do it .................So lets do it

    Todays biggest problem is we have to many toys too play with that all do the same thing in form or another.......It time for all of to get a life outside IT.....end of story
    Over and Out
  • Microsoft wants your money anyway

    Because Microsoft wants your money whether you need it or not. Well, 90% of consumers don't need Office at all either but are willing to fork money over to Microsoft for it.
    root12
  • You can't think of any other reasons? Really? Not like every other large

    enterprise uses some other windows only lob software of some kind or other, and usually multiple of such? This is why we need access to windows desktop and why we like the idea of W8 tablets.
    Johnny Vegas
  • i don't know about need for a virtual desktop,but

    I would not describe device that is running an operating system designed to run a phone as the ultimate anything for work purposes. Nor would i call it perfect.

    The form factor is great, but that is where the greatness ends. Sure there are some apps that allow some work to be accomplished, but it is hardly perfection or an ultimate experience.

    Take the same form factor and put the same operating system you use at your work and immediately you have a significantly improved experience. That alone invalidates this entire article,unless you use iOS at work.

    Find a better solution to the touch screen that removes the need to lug around a blue tooth keyboard and it gets even better. The smart cover keyboards for example look to Bessive improvement.

    Right now ipads and android tablets are the best available tools for "ultra portable" work, but that does not make them the ultimate tools.
    Emacho
    • Actually, One small correction.

      The OS was designed for a Desktop and then stripped down to run on an MP3 player. =D
      slickjim
  • Well, lets see...

    Excel
    Photoshop
    Light room
    Flash based training modules
    Programming
    Terminal Emulation

    Sure, some of these things have alternatives on the iPad but they are nowhere near as full featured or efficient.
    slickjim
    • Well, lets see...

      With all that resourcing-hogging crap, expect battery times of about two hours. That's if you don't dim the screen.
      CaviarBlack
      • Uhh, VDI, not Windows on iPad

        Were not talking about running Windows on iPad. Running a remote access solution (e.g. VPN, Citrix, RDP) will consume power but you're not running Photoshop, let alone ANYTHING that requires precise control of a mouse) directly on the iPad.

        I thing the original article is wrong, and based solely on his own utilization of the iPad.

        As a previous poster said, use the right tool for the job. If I need to write an article for ZDnet (which I do not do) or reply to a post (which Iam doing now), the iPad will suffice.

        If I need to troubleshoot a server issue or perform other administrative task, I can use the iPad in a pinch, but it would be me multiple times faster to use a laptop -- even if Citrix Receiver does allow pairing of an iPhone as a trackpad.

        And there are security reasons for using VDI. Consistency with on-prem workstations is one aspect of deploying VDI desktops, security and data leakage is another. Yes, you can't prevent someone from taking screenshots, but you can prevent them from saving or emailing files just anywhere.

        This article only applies to some -- I think just those who mostly perform front office tasks -- and even then, not all of them either.
        NoNotSpam
        • Oops, corrections

          Can't edit own post. Corrections: (because I'm using the iPad to post)

          "I can use some iPad apps in a pinch, but it would be multiple times faster to use a desktop -- even if Citrix Receiver does allow pairing an iPhone as a trackpad, which isn't perfect"

          "Back office tasks"
          NoNotSpam
    • I think the problem here is:

      Some people tend to view apps as equivalent or the same as traditional software or computer applications. But the two are different, just different. Tablets, in their current form cannot fully replace laptops because they are designed to run apps, not full fledged software. Apps are stripped down version of the real thing when they are used as an alternative. For example, I have created many word documents on my windows phone but I can't pretend it is the same experience when I use my laptop. But the Surface Pro seems to promise to do that. How things turn out, we shall see.
      davidtayo
      • I agree

        It's a shame that people don't distinguish the two but clearly, the iPad and Android tablets lack the functionality of desktop applications even if the apps they have are very good.
        slickjim
        • i agree with you

          "iPad and Android tablets lack the functionality of desktop applications even if the apps they have are very good."
          Well said.
          davidtayo
          • You are missing the point

            Your discussion about apps vs full blown applications is valid but irrelevant to this article. It was about using a tablet as a client device with the applications running remotely. The tablet is nothing more than a window to the remote system. You can use an iOS based iPad to view a machine running Excel, Project, Access, and any other Windows based application as if you were sitting at the remote machine itself.

            If you have to lug around a keyboard and a tablet and a mouse (more about that in a minute), then you might as well lug around a small laptop - it would be easier.

            Why a mouse? Touch screens do not allow the same degree of accuracy as a mouse. Unless the application is written for a touch screen, the user will have some difficulty doing much more that pushing the larger buttons. Have you noticed how touch screen oriented programs tend to have larger buttons? That is for fat fingers. So, if you are trying to use an application with a lot of detail where you need accurate selection, a touch screen just isn't going to cut it.

            The article is correct in that you can use an iPad as a vitual desktop device. Just because you can, it does not automatically follow that you should, especially when there are better, cheaper, and more convenient alternatives. The iPad is a nice toy for reading emails, watching movies, and surfing non-Flash web sites, but nothing more.
            BRC-4c5c4
          • I dont think i am the one missing the point here.

            I merely replied to a comment, not the article itself. And I refuse to accept doing so is a crime on Zdnet.
            davidtayo
          • Which again...

            ...doesn't negate my response to @Weekid.

            Some of you windoze fanbuis expect more than what a tablet can deliver. I've been hearing that whining ever since the first iPad came out.
            CaviarBlack
          • Caviar,

            Expecting more from a tablet hardly makes anyone a fan of anything. Plus, it's no whining when you ask or seek for something you need. Perhaps, when Surface comes out, you will start to hear purring of contentment.
            Of course, you didn't notice, but I didn't reply to your comment.
            davidtayo
          • @davidtayo

            You can ask for something all you want but if the capability isn't there (and you know it), then it becomes a red herring excuse not to buy the item in question. It's a game played here all the time.

            "Of course, you didn't notice, but I didn't reply to your comment."

            But I don't really care. I replied to yours and I knew you wouldn't stay away.

            ;)
            CaviarBlack
          • "An excuse not to buy it"?

            If the tool doesn't do what you need it to, for your specific need, you don't buy it. This isn't about being a fanboy, or hating something, but about using the computer like a tool.
            Michael Alan Goff
    • I think the problem here is:

      Some people tend to view apps as equivalent or the same as traditional software or computer applications. But the two are different, just different. Tablets, in their current form cannot fully replace laptops because they are designed to run apps, not full fledged software. Apps are stripped down version of the real thing when they are used as an alternative. For example, I have created many word documents on my windows phone but I can't pretend it is the same experience when I use my laptop. But the Surface Pro seems to promise to do that. How things turn out, we shall see.
      davidtayo