The Quest For a Viable Client Device

On 7 March 2013 by Pete Petersen

Latitude 10 Tablet

The Past

So there are times that all the dizzying choices of client devices cause a mind to succumb to the draw of having the newest thing. That’s how many devices find their success. This is how Apple keeps succeeding and succeeding over and over again–not to mention that the products are high quality, and well thought out user experience devices. For example, the iPad was a game-changer. It has literally changed the way we think about mobile computing, not to mention the iPhone, and the follow-on, Android. Much to be happy about.

One of my first forays with a tablet, then called a slate, was an HP device that came out when Windows XP was brand new: The HP Tablet PC TC1000. I will admit that I was enamored with the idea of being so mobile, and no one was doing that in those days. But the device could barely run XP with a very stripped OS and user data. I wanted to love it, and I gave it the full try. I moved in, carted it around. But in the end, it just couldn’t keep up with me. It just didn’t work out.

I even went to Motion Computing’s tablet at one point and actually found the experience adequate for a while, if you like a stylus as a primary input method, rather than touch, and with a Windows (XP) OS that is designed for a mouse. I loved this experience more than the TC1000, but it, too, was limited.

And I have been on the iPad and found it okay, for what it is. But not as a “create” device. Only as an “access” device. As a VDI client, the iPad can be a good choice.

Today

So recently, I purchased a Dell Latitude 10 Pro. I had previously had my hands, momentarily, on a Microsoft Surface RT device and found the experience rather good with Windows 8. But I wanted to see if the technology had caught up enough to give me a great experience as my daily work device. The Surface Pro was an option. But Dell had just come out with the Latitude 10, and it looked good from a specs perspective, and it had the dock. I got the 64GB version with the dock.

After loading everything up on the device: Chrome, Firefox, Evernote, Filezilla, Exifer, LastPass, Acrobat Reader, Exifer, Microsoft Office 2013, Dropbox, and PhotoPlus, I found the experience to be less than stellar. The machine was just sucking wind no matter what I tried to clear up. So I removed Dropbox and added Skydrive. Wow, what a difference! The device is still no full-blown laptop, nor desktop replacement, but it will do for what I do every day: Creating and editing documents and diagrams, writing articles, manipulating images, and architecting environments for various organizations.

And as a touch tablet device, I am thoroughly impressed. The Metro interface is intuitive, after a few pointers, even though I didn’t know what to make of the tiling interface at first. For example, once you know to swipe in from the edges, you can discover many useful things you can do without the mouse. When I’m working, I use the traditional user interface (UI). But when I’m detached and running around without a keyboard, I tend to use the Metro UI more. The app has to choose between the UIs. Chrome, for example, can run in either Metro or traditional Windows, but not both at the same time. Evernote has two apps: Evernote for Windows (for traditional Windows UI) and Evernote Touch (for Metro UI).

The one other limiting factor about this type of device is the available compute resources. For example, I can’t just have “all my stuff” here as I can on a regular computer with a few hundred gig of storage. I have to choose carefully as to not completely fill the device.

In addition, Some of apps I use are still buggy. Evernote Touch, for example, force-closes a lot. And other Metro UI apps are so bare-bones, that I have trouble figuring out how to use them.

Now, as a VDI device, the Latitude 10 is superb. I can take it off of the dock and run, and when I’m back in the office, I can connect to my virtual desktop where all my stuff is. And since, in my case, my virtual desktop is actually available to me over a secure Internet connection, the only thing I really need is a connection to have all my stuff. There is really no compromise, except if I happened to want to have all my stuff on an airplane, or traveling through a dead zone. But then again, I could just take an external drive for that. The situation is so rare that I need “everything” with me, that I can’t even think of a time when that would be the case.

Conclusion

So, in conclusion, a smaller device like the Latitude 10, the Surface, or an iPad, with a 10″ screen, suits my daily needs quite well. However, some apps are still buggy, and although I can do pretty much everything I need to do, I can’t do it all at once.

And for the full-blown experience, I can quite happily connect to my virtual desktop.

For now, I will leave my laptop at home.