All those iPads racing into the enterprise must maneuver around a tricky corner: getting Windows desktop apps to run on iPads without wrecking the user experience. Sure, Citrix virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, can render entire Windows desktops and their apps on the iPad -- but not always well.
The problem, of course, is that Windows desktop apps were never meant to run on a 10-inch touchscreen tablet with no mouse and physical keyboard (even less so on a 3.5-inch touchscreen iPhone). Yet workers need these apps to do their jobs.
[ Get the key insight sin deploying VDI with InfoWorld's "VDI Deep Dive" PDF special report. | Track the latest trends in virtualization in InfoWorld's Virtualization Report newsletter. ]
Slideshow: 15 Ways iPad Goes to Work
We're not talking about simple iPad apps such as Quickoffice and Documents to Go that replicate Microsoft Office, either. Companies, even entire industries, might rely on a single legacy Windows app. At hospitals across the country, for example, clinicians depend on the Cerner medical app, which doesn't work well on the iPad. Then there's the plethora of custom-built Windows apps in which companies have invested much time and training. These apps often require a virtualized desktop environment to run on an iPad.
But CIOs argue that Windows apps running in a virtualized environment on an iPad deliver a terrible user experience. iPad users have to pinch and zoom field screens, input data with finger taps and the virtual keyboard, and then repeat this maddening process over and over.
The end result: Employees use Citrix on the iPad as a last resort, CIOs say.
This is one of the reasons keeping iPads at bay at Seattle Children's Hospital. "The EMR [electronic medical record] apps are unwieldy on the iPad," says CTO Wes Wright.
One of the leading providers of virtual Windows desktops for the iPad is Citrix with its Citrix Receiver app. Benjamin Baer, senior director of product marketing for the Receiver and Gateways group at Citrix, says he is aware of the usability problem. Although Windows app developers ultimately have to step up to the plate and retool their Windows apps for the iPad, Citrix is taking steps to solve the usability problem. CIO.com's Tom Kaneshige talked with Baer about Citrix's role in helping software developers turn this corner.
CIO.com: As iPads increase their enterprise footprint, CIOs say users complain about the poor virtual Windows experience on the iPad. What can be done about this?
Benjamin Baer: The basic thing we provide is the ability to get to legacy Windows apps using non-Windows devices. We deliver the ability to virtualize Windows apps and, of course, Windows desktops on an iPad. At its base level, a lot of the criticisms are well founded in so much as Windows apps and Windows desktops were never designed for touch capabilities and small screen real estate.
With the Citrix Receiver on the tablet device, we primarily focus on the app rather than the desktop. We can deliver desktops, but as you point out the U is so mouse- or cursor-driven. Most people would rather have access to their Windows apps, not necessarily the entire desktop.