iPad is cool, but wait until you can fly a jet with it

Corporate apps tap only a fraction of mobile hardware potential

For all the seeming diversity of the hardware in your end users' hands, not as much about what those users are doing has changed, at least when they're mobile, according to Citrix CTO Simon Crosby

The major non-PC device, other than smartphones, is the iPad, which is used like a big phone or a small notebook -- to take notes, view presentations, browse the Web, do email and a few other basic productivity things.

"There are whole new categories of devices introducing new use cases for the enterprise, but they approach it in a very straightforward way," Crosby says.

Smartphones handle email, texting and Web browsing, and are good clients for apps designed specifically for use on phones or other lightweight devices. There are more than 300,000 apps designed for the iPhone, and several recent surveys have marked a trend among mobile users to prefer apps to general-purpose browsing for both work and personal uses.

What's missing from the whole non-PC category is a rich set of applications that could make more inventive use of the accelerometers and GPS sensors to feed information back to server-based apps to do things like not allow texting while driving, or let an iPhone act as the remote-controller for an industrial robot or other currently fanciful applications.

Citrix' Dazzle and Receiver mobile-client virtualization products enable all that programming and mobile connectivity, so he's not exactly objective. He is right that few apps, especially corporate apps, really take advantage of the unique abilities built into non-PC devices, which can be richer than PCs in many cases. The DoD built a supercomputer using the GPUs from more than 2,000 PS/3s, for example.

"There are 300,000 apps for the iPhone that have show how incredibly inventive people can be," Crosby said. "There are some things that will always be done on a PC just for the rich client -- programming or other creative work. We haven't even begun to see the other things yet."

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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