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Citrix X1 Mouse could be a boon for iOS users

The new Citrix X1 Mouse is big news for iOS users because Apple doesn't support Bluetooth mice. But Citrix's device communicates with Receiver, making remote Windows apps on iOS devices a reality.

At Summit last week in Las Vegas, Citrix became a hardware company.

You could argue that the company has had NetScaler and CloudGateway hardware for a while, but this time around, Citrix made hardware for end users. Some people would call it boring, others might roll their eyes and see it as a gimmick. Still others, like me, think it's brilliant.

The "it" here is a mouse.

Each Summit attendee, plus a number of other people who posted use cases in an online forum, received a Citrix X1 Mouse. Summit is a non-disclosure agreement event, and there hasn't been much information shared about the device, but here's what we know:

More than just a mouse

The Citrix X1 Mouse is a Bluetooth mouse that allows mobile device users to interact with Windows applications without pinch zooming or offset mouse pointers. If you're an Android tablet user, you may be thinking, "So what, I can do that now." But to an Apple iOS user, this is amazing news.

Apple doesn't support Bluetooth mice, and the best solution so far for using a mouse with remote Windows apps on your iPhone or iPad was to turn your device into a trackpad. That turns your $600 phone into a $30 trackpad, and you can't use your phone as a phone while it's a trackpad. That's not exactly the best option. For iPad and iPhone users, a Bluetooth mouse that works with iOS is borderline miraculous.

The mouse works by communicating directly with Citrix Receiver as opposed to iOS, which leads me to believe there's a bit more than just Bluetooth going on in the mouse. Still, if you try to use it on a non-iOS device, it behaves just like a regular Bluetooth device. I'm sure we'll have more details on this as we get closer to Synergy in May.

I never thought I'd find myself blown away by something like a mouse (well, not since 1993). But when you consider the benefits of using a mouse with an iPad to drive Windows applications, you can see an expanded use case. Traveling business people no longer need to be scrunched over their iPads with frenzied fingers trying to touch the exact right part of their screens. Medical carts on hospital floors no longer need giant battery packs to power laptops so nurses can enter information.

It might wind up being a non-starter. After all, Apple could release one minor update to iOS that lets anyone use any Bluetooth mouse. For now, all those attempts at VDI that were squelched by a clunky, finger-driven interface can be revisited.

I mean, sure, it's just a mouse. And if a mouse was the only thing holding back your VDI project, you could always turn to Android tablets. Regardless, Citrix's X1 Mouse is an interesting product that solves a real problem the majority of Citrix customers have had for a long time, and that's exciting. Even if it is just a mouse.

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