Is the iPad enterprise-ready? Probably not, but I'll still buy one

The iPad will be at best no more enterprise-friendly than the iPhone, though VDI options could make it work for some shops

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Then there are the issues many IT shops have around the iPhone's limited support of Exchange ActiveSync policies, which presumably the iPad will also support. I say "presumably" because Apple's Web site never mentions Exchange e-mail in the context of the iPad, and a 451 Group analyst claims that Apple has stripped out the iPhone's Exchange, VPN, and configuration management capabilities from the iPad. The analyst, Chris Hazelton, tells InfoWorld that he made this statement because Apple's documentation did not mention these capabilities at all, and Apple has not responded to his requests to verify his assumption they had been removed from the iPad. (Apple did not respond to InfoWorld either when we asked for verification.)

The VDI possibility
Citrix Systems plans to deliver an iPad client that can run Windows 7 from the iPad, based on the same capability in its Citrix Receiver iPhone app. This would essentially turn your iPad into a thin client, perfect for VDI deployments of Windows 7. This thin-client approach eliminates issues around multitasking, application delivery, and security. Basically, it says to users, "Use whatever system you like, so long as you can RDP in." Logically, Citrix is working on its own version of this to work with Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp, but you can bet there will be other VDI offerings from other vendors.

One possible downside to the VDI approach is that the iPad is a touchscreen device, and its virtual keyboard and screen-based gestures may not work well through an RDP session. Also, while the iPad will support keyboards, I haven't seen a mouse connection in the mix just yet.

What is great about the VDI approach is that businesses are already considering VDI deployments and thinking about using their XP-era PCs as the terminals to Windows 7 RDP. How great would it be for a user to connect to Windows 7 from a desktop via VDI solution while at their desk, then walk into a conference room and grab the iPad to bring their Windows 7 session with them? The screen isn't huge, but it may be big enough. The iPad's 9.7-inch screen size is close to the typical netbook range of 10.1 to 11.6 inches, after all.

All the leading netbooks have an integrated webcam -- the iPad doesn't, but maybe Version 2 will, or someone will create a plug-in accessory. However, netbooks are at least a pound heavier the 1.5-pound iPad. Disk space becomes a moot point if you are using the iPad for personal use externally and as a VDI thin client internally.

Netbooks have the edge, but I'll get an iPad anyhow
Still -- and this doesn't happen often -- I'm going to side with my esteemed colleague Randall C. Kennedy on this one. He makes a great case for why the netbook is a better enterprise solution for a person who wants or needs mobility and requires something in between a laptop and a mobile phone.

Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to seeing what the new Windows 7 tablets bring to the discussion over the iPad, as well as seeing if iPad Version 2 comes to the table with a more enterprise-friendly offer, as Apple did with the iPhone.

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