VMware View Client for iPad Brings Windows to Apple Users
VMware View Client for iPad opens broad vistas for enterprise users who want to use an iPad but require access to a Windows desktop. The no-cost View Client for iPad extends VMware's virtual desktop environment to the popular Apple iPad granting users the ability to run Windows apps without the need to carry a PC.
In my tests, accessing a Windows 7 desktop system via a first-generation Apple iPad running iOS 4.3 was both responsive and usable via touch-based gestures. The VMware View client faithfully represented the Windows desktop on Apple's iPad hardware (including Flash animations).
The VMware View Client of iPad works over 3G and WiFi connections. My tests of this first-version release of the View Client for iPad were confined to using our WiFi network. Future tests will compare performance when running over 3G networks.
While the View Client for iPad is available at no cost from the Apple App Store, the underlying VMware View infrastructure is not. In order to use the View client, your organization will need to first make a strategic decision to implement a virtual desktop environment where the Windows client systems are hosted in a data center. For the pros and cons of using VMware View, please see my review here.
IT managers who have a View virtual desktop environment in place will find it a simple task to integrate iPad users. The existing server and data center components including the View Connection Server (the server that brokers connections from users to virtual desktop systems) and the virtual desktops themselves require no changes. iPad users need only download the client and then log on to the Connection Server to gain access to a Windows desktop system.
The View Client for iPad can use VMware's PCoIP remote display and bandwidth conserving connection protocol. I enabled PCoIP connectivity for the desktops assigned to my iPad users as the protocol is supported by default in the View Client for iPad. PCoIP (PC over IP) enabled me to limit the amount of network bandwidth used by Adobe Flash content to keep Web browsing snappy.
On initial install of the View Client for iPad, the user is presented with a pop-up tutorial about the gestures needed to effectively use a Windows desktop in the touch-oriented iPad. IT managers should advise users that they ignore this tutorial at their peril. For example, the gesture to bring up the virtual keyboard is a three-finger press. Once learned, the gestures became second nature in my testing.
Using the Windows scroll bars took a bit of getting used to. A finger press on the bar activates a grabbing action (indicated by a radiating pale yellow pulse on the screen). Dragging the scroll bar resulted in a bouncy screen scroll that also sometimes dragged the underlying Windows desktop around on the iPad screen. For the most part, however, on-screen navigation including pressing Windows application buttons and moving the cursor to different screen locations worked well.
While it's possible to add a physical keyboard to the iPad, my tests made clear that using the View Client for iPad is best suited for Windows users who are consuming or showing information. Using the virtual keyboard for extensive typing in a Windows application proved tiresome and unsatisfying given the smaller overall desktop as Windows is squeezed onto the 10.1-inch iPad screen.
Printing is an area that I would like to see improved in upcoming releases of the client. Given that mobile workers are likely to be using the View Client for iPad at a location other than the home office, the lack of local printing in this release was frustrating. I would like to see VMware take advantage of Apple's AirPrint feature to do just this. Although AirPrint is currently supported by only a small range of printers, this is better than no printing at all.