Why VMware Horizon Mobile is different on iOS than on Android

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

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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