Splashtop Releases Window 8 Developer Test Solution for iPads
The world of cross-device computing inched closer with the release today of a new "Win8 Metro Testbed" connection solution from Splashtop Inc.
This remote desktop solution lets developers who are creating apps for tablet devices use their iPad device to stream their Windows 8 desktops to them. Win8 Metro Testbed is described by Splashtop as potentially saving developers using the Apple platform some money as they look toward building Windows 8 Metro-style apps. For instance, they don't have to purchase a tablet capable of running Windows 8 to test their Metro apps.
"We have been coordinating very closely with Microsoft to support Metro applications," explained Mark Lee, Splashtop's CEO, in a phone interview. "In the whole process, we've found it is very challenging for developers to appreciate the Metro experience without having a Windows 8 tablet. Microsoft has been giving away the Samsung slate, but that costs $1,200. We actually have almost 200 developers, so it's very difficult to be buying $1,200 Samsung tablets [for them]. So we came out with the idea that we all have iPads because we are developing iPad apps, and let's turn these iPads to run, enable and remote into a vendor's PC."
Splashtop isn't using Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol, nor is it hosting Windows 8 in the cloud or using a Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement to deliver the Windows 8 desktop to iPads. Instead, the solution works with Splashtop's own "Streamer" protocol to deliver the Windows 8 desktop from a user's own PC. The protocol supports up to 60 frames per second video viewing.
Win8 Metro Testbed works with both x86 and ARM machines. It's even more needed on the ARM side as Microsoft has limited the distribution of ARM tablets running the Windows 8 consumer preview to certain developers and partners. Windows 8 on ARM has specific hardware requirements and different form factors and the devices aren't readily available yet.
Of course, Apple's hardware differs from x86 and ARM hardware. Nonetheless, Lee said that about 95 percent of the Windows 8 touch features will work with the new Splashtop solution on an iPad. The main exception is that Microsoft supports 10 finger touch points in Windows 8, whereas the iPad doesn't support that many touch points. So, there's a limitation on a few specialized apps, such as the piano app. Otherwise, the experience is "very smooth because our remote desktop technology has been fully optimized on the PC side as well as the ARM side," Lee said. Splashtop worked with Qualcomm and Nvidia to optimize that aspect, he explained.
Splashtop was able to make this system work by doing gesture mapping in Windows 8. Lee explained that without the testbed solution, when gestures are made on an iPad screen, it typically does not work. However, the solution fixes that by allowing users a range of gestures. They can swipe from right to get Windows 8 charms, use pinching for navigation and semantic zoom, and snap to apps side-by-side by slowly swiping a finger from the left side of the screen, among other such Windows 8 touch features.
The company offers other remote-screen technologies, including a Whiteboard solution for educational presenters and workforce mobilization via its Remote Desktop solution. Lee explained that the company first started in 2006 as Device Media Virtual Machines, having made a Chrome OS desktop-like companion to Windows on PCs. "We were the first to enable a Windows PC to boot up in five seconds," Lee said. He described it as being "much like Citrix or VMware View, but for consumers." Splashtop moved from there into enabling the ability to share any screen and access any application. Lee said that Splashtop's solution was the top selling app for the iPad two months ago and it also is popular on Android devices and the Kindle Fire e-reader.
"With Windows 8 Metro coming we see another huge inflexion point coming. Now Microsoft has touch experience," Lee said. "As more and more apps are touch optimized, the ability to cross across enabling experiences -- going across all of these devices -- becomes a powerful opportunity."
Lee also suggested that a Metro-style version of Microsoft Office is waiting in the wings and will be touch optimized.
"So now with Office Metro, we believe for example, when that's launched, it's going to make the experience a whole lot better when you remote in," he said.
Overall, Lee sees a distributed computing trend happening.
"We definitely believe the full any-screen to any-screen direction is coming," he said, "especially with cloud computing because a lot of applications and content are all going to be delivered from the cloud. And any device could become part of that cloud services tier."
He added that tablets right now are quad core and ARM based, and Nvidia is now talking about eight cores. "Everyone will have a supercomputer in their pocket," he said.
San Jose-based Splashtop is privately owned and works as a partner with both Apple and Microsoft. Its other offices are located in Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Taipei.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.