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Are Tablets Ready

Ever since the Motorola Xoom and subsequently Galaxy Tab 10.1 have come out (sorry, not an Apple fan. Gasp!) I have been pondering two questions. One, can I find a good deal on Ebay? Two, and more importantly, can I replace my notebook and use the tablet as my every day computing resource? I love the concept of being able to walk into a client site and whip out the tablet and get to work, whether it be taking notes at a meeting, checking email, or using a SSH client. For those who know me it would be a huge change (and a celebration from my back and shoulders). Today I carry around a Dell Precision M6400 which has a power supply big enough to be a plate warmer.

Before I rushed out and bought a tablet like a moth is attracted to light, I put together a list of requirements that all had to be met. What applications do I need to get my job done? What peripherals can work with a tablet? Where does my data get stored? After thinking about all these questions I quickly determined using a tablet natively would not work. First off, the maximum storage on a tablet is 32gb and secondly, there are so many applications I use that are Windows based. I was disappointed but I continued on to figure out what kind of external keyboards, mice, and monitors were available to me. Both the Xoom and Galaxy Tab 10.1 (couldn’t they come up with a shorter name?) have the ability to use Bluetooth keyboards and nice and both have a mini HDMI output (I wonder what Angry Birds would look like on a 70 LED TV?). Next on the list was data backup which I really didn’t put much thought into because I already knew I had more data than a tablet could store and I didn’t want to have to tote around an external hard drive.

The main thought I had is where would I store my data? My one and only thought was my data center and that got me thinking about terminal services. I can create my Windows desktop from a terminal server, install all the apps I need and just use the tablet to connect to the resources I need for business productivity. The other alternative is to deploy a VMware View (or XenCitrix desktop if you prefer) solution which VMware has an iPad and Android app. However, designing and implementing a VMware View solution for my desire to have a tablet seemed a little extreme. The other option, which will be interesting to investigate, is the ViewSonic ViewPad 10Pro. It is a Windows based tablet that has a virtual instance of Android 2.2. However, I decided I will look at this angle when Windows 8 is on the tablet and perhaps at that time, Ice Cream Sandwich for the Android.

I have settled on Remote Desktop as the answer to leveraging a tablet to replace my notebook. There are now two other requirements that has to be met. How do I connect to the data center? What apps are available for an RDP session? The second question is easier to answer so I will start there. I have found two clients that are free: Wyse PocketCloud and 2X RDP Client. I used PocketCloud on my mobile phone and it worked well but on the Xoom it is not full screen. The 2X RDP client has a full screen option. As I write this I see there is another option for Remote Desktop Client from Xtralogic, Inc. It has some nice features but only has a 7-day trial and costs $25, which is on the high end for Android apps but not unreasonable.

The bigger question is how do I get to my remote desktop session? I am not going to get into the various scenarios but what I am going to bank on is getting a Verizon 4G LTE phone and use it as a wireless hotspot when WiFi is not available. On principle I refuse to pay more for the tablet and then have to hand over money for another data plan. I know for sure if I want to root my phone there are tons of apps that can make my phone a WiFi hotspot but I don’t know if Verizon could detect that or not. Future research once Verizon releases a phone worthy enough.

For now, I still have my huge Precision notebook and I have a Xoom I use at home to test with. I do feel that when there is a phone available on Verizon that I like with 4G (hello, Bionic or Galaxy S II?) I can begin to make the transition to the tablet as the primary resource. I believe tablets can eventually be used for most people as a notebook and even a desktop replacement. They certainly are a viable option for the VMware View or XenCitrix Desktop solution and are very worthy to use a RDP client to connect to a RDP server. When it is all said and done to get the right peripherals and apps the cost will be more than a low end desktop or notebook. However, as more and more apps enter the market (including telephony apps) and the cost for tablets will go down, buying tablets for users will become a very attractive option.