If you did your best Rip van Winkle impersonation and went to sleep for 5 years, would the Citrix you see in 2017 resemble anything about the Citrix we saw leading up to this year? I tweeted something similar to the title of this article from Citrix Synergy Barcelona last month, and in the intervening weeks I've had some time to think about exactly what Citrix has going on and what they might look like in the not-so-distant future. They are placing an ever-increasing amount of focus on mobile applications and data, not to mention cloud services and application platforms, and as that happens the Windows-based solutions are starting to take a back seat.
In keynotes, Mark Templeton no longer leads with XenDesktop and XenApp numbers, he leads with Citrix CloudGateway and Citrix Online information. There were also references to the Post-PC era in the same presentation that Citrix announces the acquisition of Virtual Computer for their device and desktop management solutions that leverage client hypervisors. To me it means there's confusion on the Windows side, and Citrix is hedging their bets while putting together a framework to host Windows apps and desktops from the cloud. However you do Windows in the future, Citrix wants to be there. Some might call it a lack of focus, but I believe that it's a necessary broadening of their solutions to accommodate the future of Windows--a future that relegates Windows to the status of middleware.
The presentations that we give on the future of the desktop hinge on the fact that the desktop is an abstract concept and that Windows is just another platform for running applications. As time goes by, there will be other platforms, applications, and devices that will marginalize Windows to the point where it becomes a legacy platform, used in any number of ways to get legacy apps to users. Of course, that's a long process, and that's part of the reason companies like Citrix and VMware are moving beyond virtual Windows desktops and entering the more broad "desktop management" space. Citrix acquired Virtual Computer for this purpose (adding more management capabilities to XenClient), and the same can be said for VMware's acquisition of Wanova.
So, Citrix in five years will still have a focus on Windows desktops, but they're more than aware of the fact that the future lies somewhere else. That's why we see Citrix doing so much with Citrix Online, Podio, and CloudGateway. THAT is the future of Citrix, and as I was told at Synergy, you should get to know CloudGateway as well as you know XenApp and XenDesktop.
Citrix has been expanding their mobility offering at light speed compared to the way they've expanded their Windows offerings over the years. Within two years, CloudGateway has gone from uber-expensive application and identity federation and security platform to sleek, functional mobile application management platform. Combined with Citrix Receiver, it has the ability to deploy native mobile applications, remote Windows applications, and secure access to web applications from any device. Add to that ShareFile and they have a mobile data solution. It's hard to compare Citrix's solutions to other companies since they're all so different, but I think the case could be made that Citrix has the most complete offering on the market in terms of features.
Now add Podio to the mix, which I'm still trying to find a reason to love. Still, the fact that Podio is a platform on which enterprises can easily build applications means that Citrix is giving companies the ability to abandon legacy Windows applications in favor of a web-based approach. Not only can Citrix deliver native applications to users, but they can help you develop new ones that are accessible from anywhere without having to remote entire OSes to the users. I may not love it today, but I can see it coming around in the future.
The future Citrix will be all-in on these technologies, and while I don't believe they'd ever abandon the Windows-based technologies that they own (at least not in that time frame), I do see Citrix moving them further back from the main stage as time goes by. I suspect we'll see the same out of VMware, but that's not as shocking since their Windows desktop focus only dates back as far as 2008. It should be fun to watch.
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