Steve's House of Virtualization and Waffles


“Game Changer”

Every now and then, I find myself in a conversation that just feels important. The kind you remember in third-person later, the backgound faded away into your own private black box theater production.

Been thinking about a recent one quite a bit lately. A co-worker (the guy responsible for remote access stuff--Citrix, SSLVPNs, etc) was pacing back and forth down our row of cubes, poking away at the "test" iPad, swearing under his breath. I asked him what was up. His reponse was something like this:

"This thing's a piece of shit. I've got Citrix Receiver on here, and it mostly works, but I keep forgetting that hitting the home button closes it, so I can't switch cleanly from published app to published app. I can do published desktop, but then if I want to check the iPad calendar or e-mail, same problem. Real users are going to hate this. We just got back from demoing this to [the guys that run the company], and they declared it a 'Game Changer.' Said it was going to change the way the entire firm worked. I don't get it. How is this kludgy, one-app-at-a-time POS a Game Changer?"

I agreed that the combination of an iPad and Citrix Receiver was somewhat less than ideal. But I could see where this was heading, and did my best to reframe the situation. Users showing up with iPads and saying "make it work" represented a new model for us. We had the rogue Mac user here and there, but the bulk of the userbase was content to passively consume whatever technology was made available. To have people go out on their own and find a piece of technology that seemed interesting to them, and then to ask us to help integrate it into their workflow, well, it would be fair to call that game changing.

Encapsulating the desktop experience into a scaled-down iPad app might be a reasonable place to start--it's quick, easy, and cheap--but I don't think that's really what the users are asking for. They want real integration between the tools they provide and the work they need to do. The iPad has a perfectly good calendar and e-mail app built-in, so why should we ask them to fire up a remote desktop session just to get to Outlook? Why can't they use native tools to produce and review documents, schedule meetings, and whatever else these guys do all day?

I think when the guys that run the company tell you that they want to reshape the way they work around a new piece of technology, there's an implication there that shouldn't be ignored. Help them do it, or they'll find people that will. So in that sense, yes, it's very much game changing. Now it's up to you to decide if it's still a game you can play.

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