Once upon a time an IT user named Goldie Locks tried to access her company’s applications…

I’ll spare you the rest of the analogy. Some devices are too big, others too small, and some are just right. Of course, “just right” often depends on the application being consumed. I talk a lot with clients about user-centric computing and the fact that many in today’s mobile workforce do not want to be tethered to a single physical device. “Give me my apps on my terms” may represent a Utopian user viewpoint, but it’s still one that’s a priority for many IT organizations. Of course, we’d love to meet the user somewhere in the middle, and ensure that security is not compromised for the sake of device-agnostic application access.

We may never find Utopia, but accessing corporate apps from an approved set of devices isn’t unrealistic. We’re already doing that in many cases today (e.g., email). And that brings me to the problem. Tools like Citrix Receiver and Wyse PocketCloud can allow users to access their virtual desktops (or also published applications with Citrix Receiver) on their iPhones and other smart phones. These tools are useful, but they have their limits.

If you would like to see my point, try accessing Microsoft Word (either as a published app or as part of a virtual desktop) using Citrix Receiver or Wyse PocketCloud on an iPhone. It is a lesson in frustration. I don’t have a similar experience checking email on my iPhone because I’m not navigating a full blown version of Outlook using screen scraping technology. I get just enough email app, and it works.

Don’t get me wrong. Tools like Citrix Receiver are extremely useful, and are even better on devices like iPads. However, they’re only going to take us so far. Goldie Locks will never be satisfied if she continues to look for the perfect device. The real problem lies in the application platform. We no longer consume our productivity apps on PCs alone. Ideally, forthcoming improvements to today’s application platforms will dynamically adjust the presentation layer based on the endpoint device. That is a far more scalable means to support user-centric computing than either having to recode apps for specific devices or try to shoehorn an app onto a device not suited to present it well. Granted, this is a pretty tall order and we’re not going to get there overnight (probably closer to 5-10 years). In the interim, tools like Citrix Receiver will remain an excellent option for remotely presenting applications to users on a variety of endpoint devices. Choice shouldn’t have to be inconvenient (too much app on a small device) or expensive (too many application packages and platforms to support a variety of devices).

Are tools like Citrix Receiver on the iPhone the best we can do? Or does cloud give us the opportunity to expect more out of our application platforms. What do you think?


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