Reflections on the Post PC era

There has been much speculation about the Post PC era. A recent article in IEEE Computing Now by Joshua Greenbaum iPads, Consumption and Creation, and the Future of Enterprise Software claimed that the consumption only model of the iPad and the strength of the web browser on the Windows 8 tablet were nigh on the death nell of the iPad in the enterprise. The article seems to have forgotten both the history of iOS and their ability to access virtual machines.
The 2 points I take issue with in Joshua’s analysis and unfortunately core to his argument are that:
  • the browser is deliberately poor and this is a deliberate ploy to drive sales of apps
  • that a device primarily designed for consumption is the wrong device for the enterprise

When iOS launched with the original iPhone there were no apps everything was to be done with web sites. You can still see remnants of this design in the ability of web sites to create badges that look like apps. He also forgets that at the time of its launch Mobile Safari was probably the best browser available on any phone. The iPhone and its tablet successor could be viewed as a web based mobile thin client.

Having come from an X-Term / Thin client centralised server environment and seen its advantages in the enterprise for many applications, for example:
  • Sunray’s mobile desktops still amaze people on first sight when they see your desktop pop up mere seconds after logging in
  • VMWare’s and others’ Virtual Desktop Architectures (VDI) give systems admins amazing control over what get runs where at the minimum cutting the cost of dealing with viruses and malware
the iPad runs a myriad of pieces of software that allow access to RDP / VNC / X11 / Sunray and other remote desktops giving access to Virtual Machines and hence the power of real servers wherever there is communications.

These devices live in a continuum of local capability ranging from simple terminal through to small independent device. The iPad just sits a bit to more the terminal end than the Windows tablet. Your corporate priorities may favour a particular point on that continuum more, but the chances are both devices will have a place as well as fully optioned PCs for some users.

Tablet and iPad users may be in the vanguard of the Post PC era … but it is not quite here yet.