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Virtual desktop clients for iPads here before enterprise demand

VMware introduced a View Client for the Apple iPad, a device more consumer- than enterprise-driven. IT pros wonder when VMware will tackle more important enterprise needs.

Support for Apple's iPad in the enterprise today is not something most IT pros would describe as urgent, although the tablet has value for some niche applications.

Still, virtualization software companies are hot to make iPad support a key part of their mobile desktop strategy, even as IT professionals wish that vendors would address some of their more pressing needs.

VMware made available this week a VMware View 4.6 client for the iPad for free from the Apple App Store. Citrix's free Receiver hit the Apple App Store last year, giving virtual desktop users a way to access Windows on their Macs, smartphones and, of course, the iPad.

VMware was able to deliver an iPad client now because View 4.6 includes support for PC over IP when using a WAN via the View Security Gateway, which earlier versions of View did not support. A View client for the iPad eliminates the need for Wyse PocketCloud, third-party software that customers had to buy separately to access View on mobile devices.

While being able to access a VMware View desktop on an iPad has that certain coolness factor, demand is puny, according to Karin Kelly, an analyst at The 451 Group. She said there hasn't been a huge adoption of iPads in the enterprise, except at the executive level.

One IT consultant said that the View client for iPad is a step in the right direction, but it shouldn't be a priority.

"Bandwidth is still a problem with View. They don't have profile management, and they don't have an application console," said a New England-based virtual desktop integrator who preferred anonymity. "They haven't been proactive in the important areas that still need fixing."

VMware said its application console -- Project Horizon -- is scheduled for release this year but did not provide a timeframe. It's unclear whether the company will integrate profile management software into a future version of View.

Using iPads as VDI clients
While the demand for iPad is consumer-oriented today, the business case is slowly beginning to grow as more and more business-related "apps" become available, said Peter Ferraresso, CEO of Logical Systems, an IT consultancy in Canton, Conn.

One of his clients, a mortgage firm, made iPad, iPhone and Mac support a requirement for its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) project last year because the firm's executives use Apple products and have a mobile sales force. So, Ferraresso had to choose a desktop virtualization product with an iPad client. At the time, that meant Citrix Receiver, but XenDesktop was too complicated and expensive for the small firm's needs, so he opted for Kaviza's VDI product, which also works with Receiver.

In addition to sales-driven companies, health care is an industry where iPad client adoption is expected to be strong, particularly among physicians known to be big iPad adopters.

About a dozen health care IT pros got a preview of the View iPad client at last week's New England VMware User Group meeting in Newport, R.I., and several said they liked its on-screen touch pad and the ability to view the screen horizontally and vertically. But some people voiced concerns about security -- how to lock down the iPads in case of theft, and how to prevent thefts in the first place.

VMware said there shouldn't be any security concerns because the applications accessed through the iPad client live in the customer's own data center. VMware View Security Server provides a secure remote connection and authentication to a user's Windows desktop over a Wi-Fi or 3G network. And if the iPad is lost or stolen, an administrator can cut access to the client from the data center, the company said.

As with the Citrix Receiver, View Client can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for free. The View client for iPad supports iOS 4.2 and 4.3.

Senior site editor Colin Steele contributed to this report.

Let us know what you think about this story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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