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The iPad Is the Ultimate Thin Client

When I look at the iPad, I see it as a large-scale introduction to cloud services to the masses

In my earlier post, when I railed against the iPad, it was mostly personal disappointment and letdown.  I was disappointed by the technical specs, most notably the aspect ratio, and the exclusion of USB, HDMI, and webcams.  Those items can all be added on in later iterations (which I firmly believe they will – perhaps the iPad HD?).  And when they are released, people (Nerds/Geeks – maybe even I) will pay the upcharge for them.  A lot of blogs have been posted that talk about the iPad as the optimal stepping stone (gateway?) for the technologically challenged.  They are right (but might not know why).

When Matt (commenter MGD) posted that if he were to buy a computing device for his 9-year old daughter, it’d be an iPad, it got me thinking.  It would be hard to pick a better device for kids.  Parental Controls are becoming a very key discriminator for operating systems and browers.  Windows 7’s capabilities allow users great parental controls, but there are always ways around that.  Apple has been very stringent on keeping the App Store PG (or even PG-13) rated.  Why not keep your young ones limited to a similar system???

When I look at the iPad, I see it as a large-scale introduction to cloud services to the masses.  3G subscribers can grab bandwidth everywhere, enabling iWorks usage whenever they desire.  Hopefully Google Apps will become an iPad app, allowing users to  access their Google data from anywhere.  It is not that I don’t trust iWorks, but I know that I like Google Apps, and I’m not the only one.  tthere are over 100 M Google users.  A powerful Google Apps iPad App would be a tremendous game changer, enabling Google users access anywhere.

The iPhone already offloads computing power to servers to allow for consumption of more powerful capabilities than offered by the local hardware.  I believe the iPad will continue in this vein.  Many think the iPad to be a content delivery system.  In my mind, consumers want to be able to create content just as much as they wish to consume it.  If the iPad is to be successful, it will need to be a content creation device.  This content includes work files, videos, blogs, and even artwork.  As the first introduction to the idea of a personal cloud for many users, the iPad needs to let them interface seamlessly.  However, before the iPad can become the “evangelist of the cloud,” we must first see if it can be used for creation of media.  It is my opinion that the iPad can be a great work device with just one accessory and one app.

1.  Google Apps iPad App – Google is one of the largest search and email providers in the world today. Google offers gigabytes of storage to every user.  Utilizing Google Apps users can create Presentations, Documents, Spreadsheets, and collaboratively edit them.  Google Apps accepts many file formats; Adobe, Microsoft, and OpenOffice among them.  Google Apps is a medium for Chat, File Sharing, Document Editing, and Email, providing an almost complete online experience for users.  If the iPad can leverage Google Apps, it can be a great tool for professional creation.

2.  iPad Desktop Dock – the current iPad dock with just a keyboard isn’t the solution.  A 10 inch screen isn’t good for desktop work, nor is just a keyboard.  Users need keyboard, mouse, and a larger screen. A dock providing video out (HDMI/VGA) plus USB ports for printer, keyboard, mouse, and charging capabilities would be the perfect port replicator for the iPad.  This dock would allow users to travel lightly with the iPad on the road, and work even harder/longer/more easily at home (or the office).

These two components will help create an atmosphere in which non-power users will feel comfortable and capable utilizing cloud services to enable their computing needs.  Using the cloud for storage is just one step, but users will feel eminently more comfortable in the secure controlled environment offered by Apple.  Most of us techies are already useing using cloud services daily, even if just to enhance the capabilities of our mobile devices, and the iPad can be a great introductory step for the non-technologically gifted/obsessed.

Google is rumored to be producing their own Chrome OS based tablet (Check out the concept video here).  This device would be a direct competitor of the iPad.  It would be safe to assume that Google’s tablet (if it is more than a rumor) would possess the Google Apps capabilities, but I think it is also pretty likely that Google develops this capability for the iPad.

Related posts:

  1. Plastic Logic and what could be the ultimate thin client
  2. A Reaction to the iPad
  3. Thin Client Laptops: Functionality, Security, Mobility


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More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder of Crucial Point and publisher of