In an earlier post, we discussed whether businesses should really care about the iPad, and suggested that the answer is now yes. Today, let’s take a deeper look at the role mobile tablets can play in your endpoint environment. It goes a lot further than email and calendaring.
Out-of-the-box, the iPad is a portable, versatile, and convenient device, and users love it. But it’s hardly a complete computer. Although it offers business-friendly applications like salesforce.com, Mail, and Safari, and integrates with standard business apps like Microsoft Exchange, these represent only a small fraction of the applications required by the typical user in the course of a day. Concerned primarily with the consumer market, Apple is unlikely to go much further in supporting common enterprise applications.
But that’s not to say that iPads can’t be made to run a much broader set of enterprise systems. The key is desktop virtualization. Already one of today’s most important trends in IT, desktop virtualization lets IT deliver centrally stored and managed applications, data, and desktops as a service to achieve new levels of mobility, flexibility, and efficiency.
The initial wave of desktop virtualization initiatives focused on traditional PCs and laptops, as well as desktop and mobile thin clients. Now, many enterprises are extending their virtual desktop environment to include tablets and smartphones as well. CXO magazine calls this embrace of mobile devices one of the top current desktop virtualization trends. At the same time, CRN says that the desire to make greater business use of iPads is a key driver of the adoption of desktop virtualization.
While the form factor of the iPad makes it unsuitable as a full desktop replacement for most users, given the limitations of its soft keyboard, limited pointing functionality, and relatively small screen, the delivery of enterprise applications to the device can still support a broad range of use cases:
- Doctors now carry iPads to access information resources, record notes, view real-time patient monitoring data, and collaborate with colleagues while on rounds in the clinic or anywhere else.
- Field technicians use iPads to manage projects and connect to remote systems using a device they can carry with them even as they climb ladders or straddle large pieces of equipment.
- Point-of-sale personnel in a retail environment can use iPads to connect to CRM and ERP systems to provide better service for customers as well as real-time inventory tracking for the business.
Virtualization also provides a way to ensure security as users become more mobile. Instead of having data reside on the iPad, users access data stored in the datacenter; if the device is lost or stolen, no enterprise information is compromised.
What do you think? Has your organization implemented desktop virtualization, or does it plan to? Will this help drive the adoption of iPads in the enterprise?