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Chris Fleck

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Citrix Brings Microsoft Office to the iPad

Turn your new iPad into a killer business tool

Even though Microsoft has taken a wait and see attitude towards building a native version of Office for the iPad, there is no need to wait to do real work from the iPad. Citrix Systems has released Citrix Receiver for the iPad 1.0 which can provide anyone the ability to use Microsoft Office apps from their new iPad. This is not a clone app or "lite" version with possible compatibility issues. Real Microsoft Office 2003, 2007, or even 2010 Beta all work flawlessly from the iPad.

Citrix the leader in Desktop and Application Virtualization has applied the HDX technology to solving a new dilemma that new iPad users have come to find.

This great new device is perfect for consuming media and web surfing, but soon most users want to use it to help get their jobs done as well. For many that means keeping up with Outlook email, reviewing, editing, or creating new Word documents, checking budgets in Excel, and working on Powerpoint slides. The new iWork app looks appealing and will certainly be a hit in businesses with Macs, but for the rest of the Windows world that still means Office as the de-facto standard. Many users need pixel perfect compatibility to be able to exchange documents with colleagues and customers, the effort to assure file types, macros, animations and other Office features make it a hassle to use anything else. In addition, most companies have IT security policies that state that company assets ( including company documents ) may not be stored on anything except a company owned and managed PC or Server.

The way this solution works is Microsoft Office is actually installed and running on Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop on company servers. The user interface is securely remoted from the Server to the iPad. From the iPad, keystrokes and touch gestures are sent to the server. The proven Citrix HDX/ICA technology accelerates and encrypts all of the transmissions, and the company data never leaves the data center.

The result is Office looks and feels like it is running locally on the iPad. Even better, the native iPad gestures like pinch and zoom are fully supported as well as native windows features like right click.

One really impressive feature of Citrix Receiver for iPad is the "Wireless Trackpad". This allows your iPhone to function as a trackpad for the Windows Office session. Touching the screen is cool, but gets tiring with prolonged use in windows apps. The "Wireless Trackpad" enabled iPhone allows you keep your forearm rested just as with a mouse or regular trackpad. To make this feature work a user needs to download the free Citrix Receiver for iPhone 2.2 app and simply pair it with your iPad. The wireless connection uses Bluetooth or WiFi if available.

There are limitations however, the most significant is this solution does not work off-line. Fortunately with the iPad 3G versions coming soon that becomes less of an issue. Printing from an office network printer works fine, but printing locally like to your home printer may present a challenge. Of course you could always email a document to a PC connected to a printer to print ( assuming that meets your company IT policy ).  Of course this solution also depends on your company providing Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop infrastructure. The good news is more than 200,000 companies already do, however it may be necessary that your IT department enable new users or publish new applications like Office.

Oh yeah, Citrix Receiver for iPad not only runs Microsoft Office, it enables any windows application or even entire Windows 7 Virtual Desktops as a VDI ( Virtual Desktop Infrastructure ) implementation.  Also many business web applications require IE, Java, Flash or have other browser dependancies not supported by the iPad Safari browser. So companies can host those web apps on XenApp and securely publish them to the iPad.

If your company already uses Citrix, talk to your IT department about enabling your new iPad. If they already support the iPhone it should work as-is. If you currently access your Citrix applications from a Web Page ( Web Interface ) your IT department may need to make configuration changes to enable access. ( IT Administrators can find tips and guides at http://community.citrix.com/iPad ). Security features like password control, 128 Bit encryption and RSA 2 factor authentication are fully supported.

If you don't have Citrix at your company you can still try it out. The app is free and there is a built-in live demo ( also at http://citrixcloud.net )  so you can experience Office from the iPad yourself. You can review and create Office documents ( but not save ). Show it to your boss and IT department and soon you may be doing real work from your iPad, and enjoying it !

For more information http://citrix.com/iPad .

More Stories By Chris Fleck

Chris Fleck is Vice President of Emerging Solutions at Citrix Systems. Chris started his career at IBM working across multiple engineering and product organizations leading to Business Unit Exec of the IBM Industrial Computer Group. As a pioneer of new technologies, Chris founded an IBM spin-off to commercialize the initial Server Blade products as CEO of OmniCluster Technologies. At Citrix Chris is responsible for Emerging Solutions and is involved with or leading strategic initiatives at the company. You can follow him on Twitter and his blog at TechInstigator.com