In case you haven’t noticed, the diversity of mobile computing devices continues to grow with no signs of slowing down. From netbooks to smartphones, and everything in between, consumers have a dizzying range of choices, many of which have captured their imagination in ways that old school corporate computing devices could never do. And this explosion of devices took a step function leap forward this past weekend with the release of the Apple iPad.
Having spent most of my career in IT, I see tremendous new opportunities in trends like these. The simple truth is that if employees like the devices they’re using, and they take those devices with them wherever they go, they will be more productive (work longer hours) and be happier doing it because they’re not stuck in a gray cubicle, staring out the window and wishing they could go home.
At the same time, this level of personal mobility can be terrifying for IT from a security perspective. If we thought it was difficult to control the confidential company data floating around on corporate laptops, what happens when people want to start using all of these exciting new personal devices for work tasks? We can always issue new policies and controls trying to prevent employees from using such devices, but that’s rapidly becoming a fool’s errand. The horse is already out of the barn. If IT leaders don’t figure out how to support employees on devices like this in a secure way, they will simply start going around us… which is 10x worse.
Here at Citrix, we’ve been working hard to help solve this kind of problem in ways that are a win for both employees and IT leaders…extending our virtual computing solutions to a wide range of mobile devices, including netbooks, Macs, iPhones, Blackberries, Androids and Windows Mobile devices. This past weekend, we extended that to the new Apple iPad with two exciting new iPad apps. The new Citrix Receiver for iPad makes it easy for iPad owners to take their virtual office with them anywhere they go by providing secure, one-touch access to all of their Windows business applications and documents. The Citrix GoToMeeting for iPad brings the same level of simplicity to the world of business meetings, making it easy for iPad owners to collaborate from anywhere via online meetings that are both effortless and visually stunning.
In my mind, these new announcements continue to evolve our Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) offerings. Typically when people talk about Citrix and BYOC, the conversation centers around our upcoming XenClient Type 1 bare-metal client hypervisor installed on a laptop. Certainly XenClient will offer an incredible new level of choice for work and personal environments on a single machine, (you’ll be hearing a lot more about XenClient at Citrix Synergy 2010 in San Francisco next month, BTW… very exciting stuff that’s going to blow a lot of people away, but I’m sworn to secrecy for the moment). However, just like Citrix does not believe that VDI alone covers all desktop virtualization scenarios, we also don’t believe that client hypervisors alone represent all BYOC use cases.
For me, using a lightweight software “receiver” on these client devices, while running the main apps, documents and desktops securely in the datacenter, makes a lot of sense when one starts to consider the capabilities and use cases of these mobile devices. Consider low cost netbooks as an example. They are low cost primarily because they are low powered… in effect, a really cheap laptop designed mainly to access things on the web. Using any kind of client-side hypervisor on devices like this… type-1 or type-2… simply doesn’t make sense. Even a slick new device like the iPad isn’t nearly powerful enough to run high-end Windows business applications, especially ones that require 3D graphics, financial modeling or data analysis.
For over 20 years, Citrix has been solving this kind of problem for traditional PCs and thin clients with our XenApp product line. More than 230,000 organizations worldwide have standardized on XenApp, and are using it to deliver an estimated 25 million Windows applications to more than 100 million end users every day. We’ve recently extended that leadership into the broader desktop virtualization space with our market-leading XenDesktop, delivering all flavors of virtual desktops from a single system with our FlexCast™ delivery technology. Both of these products allow customers to deliver Windows desktops and apps securely from the datacenter with a high quality user experience over any network, thanks to our high-definition HDX™ technology.
With the addition of Citrix Receiver, we can now light up millions of mobile devices… including the new iPad… transforming them into powerful business tools… all with virtually no additional support needed from IT… and with the security of knowing that the apps, documents and data never leave the datacenter. Simply delivering these services over an HDX connection without thinking about the complete user experience, however, is still likely to result in dissatisfied end users. To truly enable “work from anywhere” on such a diverse range of mobile devices, we also had to consider how users would interact with the applications, documents and desktops on each unique type of device. I blogged recently about how remote native Windows applications could be re-skinned to enable some of these use cases and also provide IT the ability to retain their security posture and enhance their service offerings for business users.
The new Citrix Receiver for iPad is a great example of this kind of attention to detail. User experience is something that Apple has understood for years. The iPad is getting rave reviews because it was clearly designed to be better than a smartphone and laptop at certain functions, and not a just a compromise of an existing form factor. To light up the iPad for business, we knew we had to think the same way. Our goal was to transform the iPad from a great personal mobile device into a great business mobile device. We knew that simply opening up a secure tunnel to hosted Windows apps or desktops wasn’t going to cut it. We had to do something truly worthy of the iPad… the kind of solution that would excite iPad owners by really taking full advantage of the unique attributes of the device itself.
When you try out Receiver for the iPad, the first thing you’ll notice is that it provides a great looking personal workspace with a slick, intuitive way to organize apps and documents. We also tried to take advantage of the touch interface to enable simple navigation so users can complete tasks efficiently and naturally, whether they’re working with native iPad apps, or their Windows business apps and documents.
• We’ve even created a something we call the “Wireless Trackpad” which allows you to use your iPhone as a mouse for the iPad.
• “Auto-Fit” detects the orientation of your device and automatically adjusts the session resolution.
• We’ve simplified gestures to make it easier to interact with Windows applications on the iPad.
• User self-service access to IT managed resources is also provided, as well as the flexibility to connect to your full Windows desktop, if desired (if you don’t have an iPad yet, check out our online video tour ).
I personally think the iPad will predominately be a content viewing and editing device, not a full replacement for a content creation device like a Windows or Mac laptop, but this will still lend itself to some really cool use cases such as secure health care record viewing, more accurate and secure entry of content such as patient prescriptions, sales presentations, field services, etc. Chris Fleck posted a great blog on this (“Top 10 Business Uses for the iPad “).
Another key aspect of declaring the iPad “open for business” is the work we’re doing to enable online business meetings. I’m very excited by the addition of the GoToMeeting app we’ve designed specifically for the iPad. I’ve used GoToMeeting for many years, and now that I am at Citrix and more mobile than ever, it’s become an essential part of my work life. When I work from home, I hate having to fire up my laptop just to use GoToMeeting. Now I can grab an iPad, tap on the meeting invite, and I’m in. It’s easy. It looks great. And I’m free to walk around while connected to the meeting. I’m highly unlikely to do that with my laptop or netbook device. Even when I am in the office, I often find myself ducking into a conference room just to setup a laptop and connect to a GoToMeeting. I’d much rather just carry my iPad to the meeting and take it wherever I go. It truly delivers on the promise of “meetings to go” in a way that’s far more profound than I think most people realize. I’m also looking forward to using the same device to read my books when I fly so I can stop carrying the physical books to lighten my load.
While the iPad may not be for everyone, it’s already created a lot of fans over here at Citrix… including me. In addition to all the value I can get with Citrix Receiver and GoToMeeting for my business life, there are armies of smart and creative people around the world building native iPad apps to enable me to do so much more from a single device, on a form factor that I find delightful. I’m also very pleased to see Apple start to add native enterprise security features. I can now bring my own device and use it to be more productive and have the flexibility to be me. I believe the very notion of what a desktop is, will continue to change over the next decade with this type of innovation. Others out there are also thinking this way in terms of the user experience. As this evolution continues, Citrix is well positioned to help IT bridge the gap between traditional enterprise computing and the unstoppable market forces of consumerization. BYOC shouldn’t be limited to a single device type or technology, and the IT organizations who recognize this early are the ones who will end up with more successful, productive and happy employees.