Friday, March 04, 2011

Should Your Tablet Be a Desktop Extension?

I like to use my tablet PC as a replacement for most of the technology I own. That’s not to say I don’t use a PC or mobile phone at all, but in general, if I can get away with using a tablet, I do. So, I am always intrigued when a new player in the remote desktop market arrives and people start talking once more about how useful it is to access your PC on the go.

Specifically, Citrix has finally released their GoToMyPC software for the iPad – something many Citrix subscribers have been waiting for. LogMeIn and Team Viewer have both been available for a while on the iPad and there are a handful of cloud tools to access files and remote file structures, so this isn’t new, but it is interesting.

It comes down to one thing though – should a tablet PC be a fully functional workstation replacement? The question has been asked a lot lately because, frankly, the first few generations of tablets tried very hard to be fully functional. Even modern Windows 7 tablets provide full functionality of a PC with some hardware limitations. It was the iPad that changed all that – paring down what a tablet does to simple, intuitive multi-touch gestures. Android tablets are a little more powerful and have far more latitude for developers, but the same idea remains – it’s not a complete desktop replacement…yet.

Eventually, I envision a tablet PC market that can utterly replace desktops. It happened with notebooks and laptops in the 2000s. Early laptops were heavy, had very poor battery life and couldn’t keep up with even mid-range desktops. That has changed. You can buy laptops today that last for 6+ hours unplugged and provide plenty of power for desktop publishing, graphic design, and even gaming.

So, it will probably not be long before we see a sharp increase in the viability of tablet PCs as notebook and desktop replacements.

But, it goes beyond the power under the hood. You can make a super powerful tablet PC, but if the software and input solutions are not there to provide users with the intuitive interface they need to use something like Photoshop CS5 or Office 2010, it gets tricky. And that’s when people start looking to software solutions like GoToMyPC.

Personally, I think this software is fantastic. It provides a great option for enterprise users especially who don’t want to upload sensitive documents to the cloud where they are vulnerable. It also allows us to access software not yet available on the iPad or Android devices. But, as time passes, we as consumers need to support the idea that the developer community building up around tablets will provide these solutions and finally allow us to use our tablets as full blown workstations.

The time is coming – it’s just a matter of when.

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