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Why VMware Horizon Mobile is different on iOS than on Android

Written on Aug 30 2012 7,600 views, 14 comments


by Colin Steele

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the middle of Tuesday morning's end-user computing keynote at VMworld 2012, a tweet caught my eye:


My immediate reaction: Wow. Apple finally gave in and let VMware virtualize the iPhone? This is huge news!

Later in the keynote, VMware demoed Horizon Mobile for iOS, and it turned out to be a different story. Despite the identical name, Horizon Mobile for iOS is very different than Horizon Mobile for Android, which installs a separate, IT-controlled operating system on end users' devices. Horizon Mobile for iOS instead is an application wrapping and sandboxing technology that lets IT secure and deploy mobile apps on iPhones and iPads.

The obvious question is, why the different approaches? The obvious answer is, because Apple still won't let VMware virtualize the iPhone. But there's more to it than that, according to Ben Goodman, VMware's Horizon evangelist. He explained to me that, because of the problem of Android fragmentation, it's better to provide one complete operating system that IT can control, so admins don't have to worry about supporting so many different Android versions and devices. That problem doesn't exist in the iOS world, so that approach isn't necessarily the best, he said. 

Another interesting thing that came up in our chat was VMware's approach to application wrapping. Other vendors do wrapping through an SDK that accesses the application file, but VMware does SDK-less wrapping. It's very similar to the way ThinApp packages Windows apps, Goodman said, with Horizon acting as a proxy to determine what parts of the app can and can't communicate with iOS.

"The only thing iOS really sees is Horizon," he said.

To publish apps through Horizon Mobile, you upload the .apk (Android) or .ipa (iOS) file through the Horizon console, and then it will be wrapped and show up in your application catalog. From there, you can either deploy it to end users through sideloading or as a containerized app.

Horizon Mobile also lets you install apps from Google Play and Apple's App Store, and it comes with Horizon Data (formerly Project Octopus) and an email client preinstalled. The email client is not based on VMware's Zimbra; it's built specifically for Horizon, Goodman said.

 
 




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Comments

Jack Madden wrote re: Why VMware Horizon Mobile is different on iOS than on Android
on Thu, Aug 30 2012 3:31 PM Link To This Comment

Hi Colin,

There's one thing in here that seems a bit unclear. You wrote:

"Other vendors do wrapping through an SDK that accesses the application file, but VMware does SDK-less wrapping."

What most companies are refering to as the SDK approach is when you use an SDK for mobile application management, you put all the hooks for authentication, remote wiping, encryption, etc, (provided by the SDK) in at the time of development. With app wrapping all of this code is added to an app after it's built. So using an SDK to do app wrapping isn't really something that exists, to my knowledge. There may be varying degrees of how deep the app wrapping process goes into the app (looking to see if an app does specific API calls and block them versus just adding an authentication layer, for example), but to me it seems like it's more clear to call it one or the other.

Regardless, there's a lot that can debated about the SDK approach versus the app wrapping approach, though also since they're not mutually exclusive, ideally a solution would provide both.

Jack

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