The iPad might be a convenient and fun game to catch up on World Cup scores and view some photos or videos — but can it actually be used to get work done?
A recent study of early iPad adopters shows that almost all activity on Apple Inc.’s tablet is geared towards fun and games. Checking e-mail is the only possibly work-related task users are engaging on their iPads. But that could change soon with applications such as Citrix Receiver.
The free app delivers a virtual desktop to an iPad. This creates the unusual scenario of booting into Windows 7 and using Microsoft’s Office suite to do work – just as you normally would. But all the iPad’s intuitive touch interface features are still in place. Receiver is part of Citrix Systems Inc.’s XenDesktop portfolio.
David Cooper, the national channels manager with Citrix Canada visited ITBusiness.ca to demo Receiver on his new iPad.
So the iPad is fun to use, but can we get any work done on this thing?
I actually prefer to use this for most of the things I do, day to day. The iPad is a tremendously mobile and versatile device. The first thing most people do every day is e-mail. The iPad can do e-mail on its own, but at the office I use Microsoft Outlook, and for a lot more than sending quick notes. I integrate it with OneNote and SharePoint. So I can have the same experience on the road as I do in the office without having to make any compromises.
Citrix puts a lot of emphasis on the user experience. Not just on how the virtual environment performs but also how I interact. With a three-finger gesture, I can bring up the keyboard, which is a nice convenience.
So this is actually the same Microsoft Outlook program you’d normally use on your desktop computer?
It is. Even when I’m at the office, I use this virtual environment. What we’re seeing here is actually running in our corporate data centre in Miami, Florida.
Let’s look at a project manager’s day for example. They’re running around, they’re between meetings, between locations and sometimes they need quick and easy access to critical information. It’s possible for them to get access to their plan.
Legal professionals on the road who need quick access to documents for their clients, billing software, in the back of a taxi cab between meetings, they can be productive. It’s instant on, and it’s always available.
I’m a power user of Microsoft Office, I’ve been using it for a long time and I’ve got to learn keyboard shortcuts. That’s a potential [source of] frustration for some people, only being able to use touch and not having access to those keyboard shortcuts — but we can. When you bring up the keyboard you’ll see I have control, alt, tab, esc and so on.
Now, is that added by your application or is it inherent to the iPad?
It looks pretty good, it looks like you can replicate that desktop experience on the iPad. You’ve been using this for a while, what sort of things will you do work on?
Microsoft Office applications typically. I also have to go into SAP, I have to manage vacation for my staff, I manage expenses, I approve expenses. I also go into our Sharepoint site, our intranet and that’s where I find information about our products, what our competition is up to, announcements and that’s what I spend most of my time doing. [To engage in] my workflow, only 10 to 15 per cent of the time would I need a laptop to be productive. Most of the time I can use a device like the iPad.
What do I need to get this to work at the backend?
Any of our customers [with] XenApp, or what used to be known as presentation server and meta frame … can take advantage of this now. We make Citrix Receiver free in the App Store. There’s a little bit of configuration that would have to take place in the data centre just to make it compatible.
Any time you’re connecting to a work server, you want to make sure that’s a secure connection. What is the security built into this?
With this connection, all of my documents are in the data centre in Miami, not being carried around with me. I’m not relying on the local storage here. If it’s stolen, none of the company’s information is lost.
The connection between my iPad and the data centre in Miami is encrypted, and that makes it impervious to eavesdropping. When I authenticate to the data center, I use my user name and password to the Windows domain. I also use the RSA soft token here on my iPhone to get a code that changes every 60 seconds. That’s a two-factor authentication.