The tablet revolution is both benefiting from and inspiring technological innovation

by Ben Bajarin

May 27 2012

Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Practice at Creative Strategies in Silicon Valley.


As tablets take over the enterprise, programs are necessarily being written for the touch screen. At the same time, virtualization is making the mobile worker’s job easier.

There are several enterprise trends converging that are of particular interest to me at the moment. The first is that the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is accelerating cloud computing--specifically virtualization--for many corporations.  

IT departments are finding this to be quite convenient for them since they only have to manage the server side software and hardware while their key applications are virtualized and secured on any hardware employees bring in the front door. 

The second trend is how tablets are invading businesses large and small at unprecedented rates.   However, I believe it is because tablets represent what a true mobile computer should be.  

Tablets change the mobile computing paradigm because they are truly mobile in their form and function. This is why many enterprise CIOs and CTOs we speak to inform us that for many of their workers the notebook is no longer leaving the desk while tablets are becoming the mobile computer of choice. 

Virtualization 

Companies like Citrix and VMWare are capitalizing on this trend. Enterprises can use solutions provided by Citrix or VMWare to give employees access to their corporate software though a software client or a web browser. This makes it easy for employees to access mission critical corporate information no matter where they are or what computer they have.  

The challenge with virtualization to date is that the experience you get with virtualized software is not as good as running that software on a local machine.   Part of this has to do with bandwidth but it also has to do with how much computing horsepower is required to do cloud virtualization.    

To date, accessing virtualized machines on tablets has not presented the perfect experience either.   However, last week NVIDIA made an announcement that could accelerate not only virtualized machines but the role tablets have in a virtualized enterprise environment.  

NVIDIA announced they will leverage their newest GPU architecture called Kepler into a new product called VGX which will enable GPU computing to take place in the cloud.  

This technology will let them virtualize the GPU in the same way the CPU and software is virtualized in cloud computing. This move will bring significantly more computing power to virtual machines and deliver a truly desktop experience to thin clients, something I think is key to advancing cloud computing. 

Citrix has announced their support for NVIDIA's new solution and will soon deployed it as a part of their solution. I saw a demonstration where an iPad was accessing AutoDesk and working with full 3D rendering in real time. It seemed as though it was running locally on a powerful desktop. 

This kind of virtualized software efficiency is what is necessary to drive cloud computing into the mainstream of businesses. 

The tablets role in this scenario becomes fascinating because it opens the door for these devices to be used as heavy duty computing devices even if their local software and CPU aren't capable of running powerful desktop applications.  

If for nothing else the convenience of using a tablet to access software, services, files, etc., that are too big or clunky to run natively on a tablet, could be a highly valuable proposition for mobile professionals.  

Software Evolution

This trend however could have a dramatic impact on software or the way we think about and develop virtualized software in the future.    

If the current trend continues toward professionals using tablets on a daily basis, then the software being developed for these customers will have to become more touch friendly.   

Think about this in terms of AutoDesk. AutoDesk is built for a mouse and keyboard computing paradigm.   Many enterprise software applications are built the same. But now tablets are entering the workforce, it makes sense that much of this new software evolve to also be touch optimized.   

Because of this, I can see a scenario where software developers begin to think about how a touch computing platform may access their software. Up to this point most software developers writing software for the PC only needed to worry about mouse and keyboard user interfaces. But now with touch gaining traction they will need to think about touch experiences with their software as well.   

Microsoft is doing this to a degree with Office 15. It will include a touch mode in many of its applications to cater to users who may be using a notebook or tablet in touch mode. Windows 8 and RT will both feature touch UI and touch experiences but can also support mouse and keyboard inputs. Because of this Microsoft is building software that can support both modes of computing. I fully expect many software developers to move in this direction as well.      

Enterprises looking to move to more virtualized environments have been given a positive boost with NVIDIA's VGX announcement. Those looking to support and deploy tablets more broadly need to think about how to integrate touch support in their software. With both trends of enterprise software virtualization and software evolution toward touch on the horizon, it adds up to exciting times.   

Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Practice at Creative Strategies in Silicon Valley.

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