Remote desktop apps: The great tablet equalizer

Remote desktop apps: The great tablet equalizer

Summary: Even with tablets appearing all over the place, there is still an impression that they are just for consuming content. My own experience is quite the opposite, and remote desktop apps play a role.

LMI on iPad
Accessing Mac with LogMeIn on iPad

It doesn't matter if you are discussing the iPad or other tablets, many have the impression that these devices are only good for consuming content. I have covered my tablet experiences in depth that prove (for me, at least) that I regularly create content on one tablet or another. While not required to do so, using remote desktop control apps can turn any tablet into a full-blown computer.

See related:

I have used a couple of remote desktop apps on tablets that let me access both Macs and Windows systems remotely. LogMeIn and Splashtop are available for the iPad and Android tablets, and both yield a fully touch-optimized experience when accessing remote systems. Even 7-inch tablets can be used for remote access as demonstrated in the following video:

I prefer LogMeIn on the iPad as I find the UX to be superb whether accessing Macs or Windows PCs. The remote desktop is presented in a productive way that can be controlled by touch on the iPad. Splashtop works pretty well too and is being constantly updated, closing the gap with LogMeIn.

It is possible to do things remotely using these apps that were not available even a short time ago. Watching streaming YouTube video on the tablet can now be done nicely using either LogMeIn or Splashtop. This shows how capable remote apps now render a productive user environment on a tablet.

The Remote Desktop app for Windows 8 is one of the most popular apps in the Windows Store. According to our own Mary Jo Foley, this app can be used on Windows RT tablets to access remote Windows systems, thus allowing the use of Windows apps on RT systems that can't run them locally. This opens up a broad range of uses in an enterprise setting, including BYOD sites.

Using the app would allow "running" full Windows programs on the restricted Windows RT (including Surface RT) devices. It in effect eliminates one of the biggest restrictions of Windows RT over full Windows 8. 

Of course, according to Mary Jo there are the typical Microsoft licensing concerns for such use that must be considered. She details those concerns in an article that shows using the Remote Desktop app on Windows RT to access full Windows systems is not without risk. Having read the licensing requirements I agree with Mary Jo that "my head hurts".

Licensing issues aside, the use of remote desktop apps on tablets is a great equalizer when a full computer system is not available. The apps are a great way to turn any remote system into a full touch computer, often better (in my experience) than touch-optimized PCs.

It is worth noting that LogMeIn has remote control capability in most modern browsers. This opens up the ability to use remote control even if there is no app for your particular tablet. It also works well on my Chromebook, as demonstrated below.

Chromebook LMI
LogMeIn on Chromebook using browser access

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPad, Tablets, Windows

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  • For techies, sure

    For most consumers it is a non issue. A lot of consumers will be ditching their desktops entirely, so no need to connect.
    • As long as Minecraft is not deployed to tablet OSs

      Then the desktop will never die.
      • Maybe I'm wrong,

        but I swear I saw minecraft in the amazon app store the other day. lol
        Sam Wagner
    • Right.

      Yup. Dead on. Sure.
      William Farrel
  • Here's the thing ...

    "Of course, according to Mary Jo there are the typical Microsoft licensing concerns for such use that must be considered. She details those concerns in an article that shows using the Remote Desktop app on Windows RT to access full Windows systems is not without risk. Having read the licensing requirements I agree with Mary Jo that "my head hurts"."

    If you, like Mary Jo, are JUST a reporter ... and NOT a TECHNOLOGIST ... then why should I read your blog?

    TCIP is 30+ years old ... Remote Desktop (on Windows) is 10+ years old ...
    ... why oh why do you accept the MASSIVE, EXPENSIVE overheads of a MSFT or VMWARE enterprise infrastructure?
    ... when IP can connect the two PC's you ahve bought, over the network bandwidth you have paid for already?

    I can only think that you are either not a technoligst ... or something worse. :-(

    My head isn't hurting ... the elaborate, expensive infrastructure from the current incumbents is to continue enptying your pockets. Capiche?
    • My head

      My head is hurting just trying to figure out what point it is you think you're making.
  • Nah

    Most people use their home computers for consumption and I would say less than 20% actually do a lot of work on them.

    This is why most average users never really get on their computers after getting a Tablet. And yes, they are using them for email, browsing, Social Media, chat, games, movies, and reading books.
    • Good point...

      The "bah, humbug: tablets are just consumption device" people probably haven't stopped to consider thar the vast majority of PCs in people's homes are just consumption devices, too.
  • And then ...

    ... the other stupidity that you continue to propound is that
    - having paid for an expensive tablet which doesn't do your work, even with attachments,
    - you than want to pay even more for infrastucture.

    Why oh why didn't you buy an Ultrabook? Or an Ultrabook and a cheap tablet ... instead of the pseudo-workaround that you column appears to demand.
  • The hazard with remote desktop on tablets...

    Cellular data bandwidth is expensive. Running a remote desktop application for any length of time eats your data allowance like candy. If average users start using them all the time, we'll start seeing headlines about users getting bills for $5,000 from their carriers. You really need to have WiFi access when you use remote desktops. Average users may not realize this.
    • Solution: flat rate data plans

      I haven't spent a cent more using my Blackberry + paired Playbook.
  • Can I tell you what we need?

    We need MSFT to release RemoteFX on Windows 8 client (not server).
    We need VMWARE/Terdici to release PCPoIP ... but truly on IP.

    No MSFT Server.

    The Internet ... IP ... 192.168.X.Y to ....

    And NONE of this other enterprise profit driven technology decisoneering cost.
    • Windows cone with Terminal Server

      All professional versions of consumer Windows (7, 8, Vista, XP) come with the terminal server built in. It allows only one client though.
  • I my opinion...

    ...remote desktop/control is 'consuming' the content of the host device.
    • I understand your point of view but consider the following.

      Remote desktop viewing, almost by definition, is an exercise at obtaining and / or manipulating data over a wireless connection. Nothing more, nothing less.

      Now consider that Blue Tooth keyboards and mice also manipulate data remotely over a wireless connection. These devices don't "consume" any data; they provide remote control of actions impacting that data.

      One could consider that tablets in a VM environment are simply remote control device (much like a blue tooth mouse or keyboard) manipulating data with the added ability of providing a remote screen to observe those actions.

      A tablet, then, used in such a fashion would not be considered "consuming" anything but rather playing an active role in manipulating and displaying data at a remote site.

      Too pedantic, eh? Grin.
  • Dumb display

    It is the great equalizer to turn your $700 iPad or $200 Nexus 7 into a dumb display through a remote connection. It uses up data throughput too at the same rate. You still have to buy a competent PC of some sort for the other end in all scenarios. It seems like an OK solutions for a typical consumer. But would a company do this? Why spend any amount on a tablet that cannot run the software natively? So the employees look cool? (marketing- types maybe) I see this all the time as a justification for implementing BYOD at work, but it doesn't make sense in the enterprise, and is insecure if poorly implemented.
  • Local use of a tablet to control Windows 8

    If Microsoft were smart they would develop a tablet (Surface) application for controlling Windows 8 locally over WiFi. With this app every desktop and laptop running Win8 could be controlled by touch rather than or in addition to a keyboard and mouse. I have been experimenting with this idea using remote apps like the ones discussed in this article.
    • There is a WinRT

      remote desktop app. I've used it with success on regular windows 8. I haven't tried it from a winows rt device though.
      Sam Wagner
  • Other side of security concerns - data on tablet

    Remoting into apps, for businesses at least, has the attraction that there's no business data on the tablet.
  • Post PC era?

    This is supposed to be the Post PC Era. How is using a Real PC (or Mac) via remote desktop validating the Post PC Era philosophy?

    Toys to access your real PC. Certainly a lot less to carry with you.