iPad For The Enterprise: Remote Control Solutions Reviewed

We've evaluated file synchronization tools for the iPad, and Citrix Receiver client for remote desktop access. Now we delve into a few more remote access tools from Array Networks and LogMeIn; and a Air Display, which turns your iPad into an extra monitor.
Avatron Air Display
This one's a little different. Many people I know run multiple displays while in an office setting, particularly if they are using a smaller laptop -- not just to get a bigger picture, but to divide multiple tasks across different screens. Despite what that says about us (I'll save that for the anthropologists), it's becoming a habit, and under the heading of "it's really cool that you can do this," the iPad now can be an extra monitor, thanks to Avatron's Air Display. Now, the iPhone can too, but I'm stretching myself on this application's usefulness on the iPad as it is, so the iPhone -- well, good luck with that.

The application is pretty simple. You have to download and install an agent on your desktop, and it runs as a background app on the Mac menu bar. Both devices (your Mac and your iPad) have to be on the same network, and, presto-chango, Air Display sees your iPad. You turn it on, and just like with any connected monitor, your iPad is ready as a container for anything you want to drag there.

I had to resize any window I put on my iPad -- for example, I made Firefox roughly a quarter of my MacBook Pro's screen, and then it fit snugly into the iPad's frame. For simple viewing, it worked like a champ. I could click on anything using my mouse, and away it went. But what was impressive was that I could use the iPad's touch screen to make gestures directly in the browser -- clicking on links, opening new pages, doing searches, even watching video (and Jobs says the iPad won't run Flash!).

But there were limits. While I could drag the browser window around the iPad using touch, I couldn't pinch in and out to zoom, and I couldn't scroll with a flick of a finger (I had to use the scroll bars -- but those did work via touch). Also, in places where I'd want to input text (like a search bar), Air Display did not bring up the keyboard on the iPad. If you're truly using Air Display as a second monitor, that's probably not all that important. The software does support portrait or landscape mode.

Any functions I performed on the iPad using touch (like scrolling or moving the screen around) were slower than if I operated them from the MacBook Pro mouse. The company claims it has a screen refresh rate of 150 frames per second with very little lag time. I tried a couple of drawing-type programs this way and the response was pretty good. Just for fun, I tried to take a screen grab from a browser dragged onto the iPad using Skitch, and it failed miserably -- quitting on me twice, and then showing nothing in my capture the second time.

Avatron says that the software is useful for those on smaller screens, for providing more space to applications like Photoshop or Office, or games. I can certainly see where just having another place to put an application would be useful, if even temporarily, especially in places where I don't have extra monitors (everywhere but the office).

The installer for the Mac is free, but the iPad application is $9.99. It's not going to kill you, but as apps go, this seems a bit on the high side. For now, it only runs on Mac OS X, but PC support is apparently on its way. Avatron also offers Air Sharing, various versions of which help users manage documents on iPhone, iTouch and iPad devices.

Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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