Citrix releases ICA client for Apple iPhone. Is this the future of Windows apps on mobile devices?

After months and months of work, a preview version of Citrix's ICA client (err.. "receiver" in their new nomenclature) is now available as a 0.

After months and months of work, a preview version of Citrix’s ICA client (err.. “receiver” in their new nomenclature) is now available as a 0.9 version for free in the iPhone App Store. (iTunes link)

The new client, which works on an iPhone or iPod Touch running OS 2.2.1 or newer brings Windows apps running on XenApp 5 and newer directly to the devices.

After watching the demo video from Citrix.com, it appears that Citrix did a great job with this client. Once you enter your credentials, you’re presented with an iPhone-specific menu of published apps that you can access. (Think of this like Program Neighborhood Agent for the iPhone—it’s a specific application enumeration and selection interface designed specifically for that device.)

Citrix also did a great job making this thing “feel” like a real iPhone app. For example, they integrated the “gestures” capabilities of the iPhone, so you can swipe your finger to pan the screen, you can pinch and spread your fingers to zoom in and zoom out of the display, and you can tap and hold for a right-click.

And of course, if you turn the phone on its side, then the orientation of the remote app session will automatically flip from portrait to landscape view.

Citrix Doc Finder

In a related announcement, Citrix is also releasing a free new application called the “Citrix Doc Finder.” This is a Windows application (download link) that you install on your Citrix XenApp server that is then published to your users. The Doc Finder is essentially like a slimmed-down version of the Windows Explorer with a user interface that looks and feels like an iPhone app.

The idea with this is that iPhone users use the Doc Finder app to browse their My Documents or their home drives or whatever to select their documents, and then assuming that the proper apps are also published for them, then can then click the document and view or edit it via the same remote ICA session.

The bigger picture: Is this Windows apps on a mobile device?

The release of an ICA client for the iPhone is actually a pretty big deal, because this is a good indication of what Windows apps might look like on mobile devices.

I’ve written quite a bit in the past about how important Windows apps are to the business world, and that cloud apps or web apps or rich Internet apps or whatever are not really going to take off any time soon since that would mean that Windows apps would have to be rewritten. (Case and point: Java) So if the business world needs Windows apps, and business users demand those apps on their portable devices, maybe this is the stop-gap solution until all our apps are rewritten in ways that can intelligently leverage non-standard devices?

After all, this isn’t the first time this was attempted. Ten years ago a company called AppSwing (holy moly: they’re still in business!) tried to solve this by converting win form applications to HTML forms on the fly (even leveraging terminal services in the background and taking investment money from Citrix). And of course who can forget Citrix’s own attempt at this with Project Vertigo? But both of those efforts suffered due to complexities with translating apps-designed-for-Windows into apps-running-on-the-web. In other words, they had both app compatibility and layout problems (as well as being maybe a decade ahead of their time).

And then of course Rove Mobile has been selling an ICA client for the Blackberry for what, five years? And let’s not forget Citrix’s own Sybian and Windows Mobile ICA clients that have also been around for years.

But to me, this current Citrix Receiver for the iPhone seems different. Maybe it’s because of the Mac halo effect, but it really seems that Citrix put some good effort into making this client as good and appropriate as possible for the device. (And credit for that should probably be split between Citrix’s time spent and Apple’s effort to make a great device.)

The bottom line, though, is that Windows apps aren’t going anywhere, and so if you want to access your apps and data from a mobile device, I think I’d choose the Citrix Receiver and the Citrix Doc Finder via the iPhone over any of the other device/software combinations that have been tried over the past ten years.

What do you think?

So what do you think? Will you use this? Was this time well spent on Citrix’s behalf?

People are definitely talking about it, as Citrix’s blog post asking whether people want ICA on the iPhone was their most commented post ever, receiving over 200 comments.

Ironically (and totally unrelated to this announcement), I actually put my personal Verizon telephone through the washing machine today, so I finally caved and ordered an iPhone. I’ll check out this app for myself in a few days. I use one of those web-based file syncing services to keep the “My Documents” folders on my laptop and my work desktop in sync, so I’m planning on syncing that folder with my XenApp server too and leveraging the Doc Finder. I’ll report back in a few weeks.

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I think the Doc Finder looks great. And I hope this announcement is received favorably with the IT world.


I don't know what will hinder ISVs and in-house development teams to factor their applications to have an iPhone compatible mode.


It shouldn't be that hard to create an additional view of an application that looks and behaves like a native iPhone app.


Also I think Citrix and Apple should work together to put out some HID guidelines on how to achieve the best user experience for Windows applications on iPhones.


(And I'd like to see the ICA client for "Sybian" *lol*)


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Yeah, there may be something Freudian with the washing/loosing/breaking the old phone thing ... a bunch of us did after playing with a friend's iPhone for a while ;-)


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Right, so all I need now is a way of 'docking' my iPhone to a screen, mouse and keyboard, and it can be my universal poratable client device. Well, maybe not just yet, but its coming.....


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Okay, so I've just recently started watching this effort, so maybe this information was already out there...  However, I am really disappointed to see no support for two-factor authentication in this build.  I think many, many enterprises are implementing this technology, and I hope they can get it in another version of the client soon!!  That being said, Thanks! for making this client Citrix.  I get asked about something like this all the time and if they get this working the way I think they can, then I'm going to have some very happy users!!!


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I understand that this is a "tech preview" and all but:


No CSG/CAG support


Root Certs thru the IPhone config Utility only


No 2 factor authentication support (previous poster)


No encryption support


Yeah it looks cool but this is like the WinFrame 1.0 client for the iPhone.  I know Synergy is coming up soon which most likely prompted the release, but this is WEAK, even for a tech preview.


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Based on Citrix history, I am positive the 1.0 version will support 2 factor authentication and handle root certificates. You know they do have Access Gateway and Secure Gateway.


I have tried this on our farms from inside our firewall.  My first impression is, Wow.  The applications scream  and are usable on the iPhone platform.  Very good information on the Learn More link that a lot of people might miss.


With the iPhone 3.0 release, keyboards and other peripherals will be there for the phone.


Thanks for the opportunity to see a tech preview, can't wait to see the 1.0 solution..


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Just loaded & tried out - Wow - So cool.


Definitely short on connectivity options but likely by design for pre-release - I hope.  


Let me repeat wow - I am very impressed how functional our "non iphone ready" apps are - productive?... likely not but no stretch of the imagination that they will be in time.  


Agree with other posts on speed - Fast and integrated feel.  I was expecting the ho-hum experience I had of my Dell Axim with TS-Client years ago... this blows that away... about time.


Thanks to all those that made this happen.


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Not so cool when you consider that they first demo'd this app at Synergy 2007.  Is this all they have to show for 1.5 years of development time?  


Since I cannot connect via iPhone to my internal  network due to security limitations for such devices that require additional authentication, ie two factor, FIPS140, SSL/TLS, this app is a non-starter.


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Thanks for the comments. As Brian noted above this release is a Tech Preview and so the feature set is limited. But I can assure you we fully understand that SSL and two factor authentication are critical features for the Receiver.


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Lee,


If you work in a FIPS 140-2 Network requiring all this security....Is the IPhone even an authorized device to begin with???  Not even worth posting otherwise.


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