Another player has joined the field of competitors striving to transform the Apple's arguably consumer-oriented iPad into a business tool. StarNet, a 20-plus-year-old maker of X11 connectivity products, has unveiled an X11 client called iLiveX, designed to transform iPads into X terminals for mainframe-based Linux and Unix applications.
The client is aimed at organizations where users work with software such as Hummingbird Exceed, X-Win32, ReflectionX, or VNC in order to run server-hosted Unix and Linux apps on their PCs. iLiveX is designed to enable users to transfer application sessions without interruption from their Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs to their iPads.
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The idea is to enable IT admins, engineers, and technicians to marshal the portability power of the iPad, especially those who are frequently on their feet while requiring access to data and applications.
StarNet is also billing the client as a tool for giving iPad users access to a Linux desktop, albeit a virtual one hosted by the company. With the account, users have access to the Firefox browser and the OpenOffice productivity suite. That, according to StarNet, grants users access to Flash applications (native iPad apps won't support Flash), as well as the ability to multitask, copying and pasting among productivity apps.
iLiveX, which features an ultrathin data transfer protocol, can run over securely encrypted SSH tunnels. Built-in session persistency allows users to reconnect to their remote desktops should the iPad get disconnected or turned off.
Given the input limitations of the iPad -- a user can be only so productive without a physical keyboard and mouse -- this doesn't represent a technology that will enable the iPad to replace desktop PCs or laptops entirely. StarNet isn't billing it as such, either. Still, this ability to use the iPad as, effectively, a virtual extension of the desktop could strengthen the case to equip certain users with device.
This article, "iPad: Dumb terminal of the 21st century?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.