If rewriting your Windows app was so easy, you'd have done it by now. Long live Windows remoting!

Last year I wrote an article called 8 reasons why Windows 8 on a tablet won't fix our legacy Windows desktop apps problem. Reason #6 was "If it were easy to rewrite your Windows desktop application for touch, then you would have done it by now.

Last year I wrote an article called 8 reasons why Windows 8 on a tablet won't fix our legacy Windows desktop apps problem. Reason #6 was "If it were easy to rewrite your Windows desktop application for touch, then you would have done it by now." This is an important concept that deserves its own article (mainly so I can point people back here in the future), so here it is today.

While it's well known that I believe VDI will never reach 100% penetration, and I don't believe VDI is "the" future of the enterprise desktop, it's important to remember that many of today's enterprise applications are still Windows desktop applications. (I don't like to call them "legacy" desktops apps since they're still here.)

And let's face it: it's 2014. Web / Java "run anywhere" frameworks have been around for fifteen years. iOS and Android apps have been around for six years. HTML5 has been around for 3 years. If rewriting your Windows desktop application for one of these "new" platforms were easy, you would have done it be now. The mere fact that you still have Windows desktop applications in 2014 means that you'll have them essentially forever.

Sure, at some point we'll want to deliver those Windows desktop applications to our users—wherever they may be—without wanting to deal the "gunk" of Windows on the client device. (Even for touch-based devices, we have solutions like Powwow that make desktop applications more usable from touch-based devices—all based on remoting technologies.) This is why I like the concept of remoting Windows apps which themselves run on Windows. Doing so means we don't have to rewrite our apps while still having the ability to connect to them instantly from anywhere.

So as I wrote over ten years ago (!) in my 2003 post, The Future of Citrix in a .NET Worldfor years we've used Windows remoting to "web-ify" Windows desktop applications. (I guess moving forward we can use Windows remoting to "SaaS-ify" or "cloud-ify" those apps. That's a fine solution for today, and it's a fine solution for moving forward.

At the end of the day, yeah, I would love it if all our Windows desktop applications were not actual Windows applications. But if it hasn't happened by now, it's probably never going to happen. That's fine. We can just throw them on a server, remote the UI, and move on to worrying about other things.

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I agree. Many retail customers have mainframe apps written in the 80s, hospitals have EMR apps written in the 90s, everybody has web apps written in 2000s. All these and new HTML5 and native apps will continue to exist for most companies. Its going to be a complex world in IT for the forseeable future.


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To simplify:


Some apps suck on little screens:


Excel


Solidworks


RDP


etc.


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I don't know if I should reply here or on Jack's post, but here goes:


First a nitpick: "I don't like to call them "legacy" desktops apps since they're still here." They are legacy apps because they ARE here. If they were gone they wouldn't be legacy; they'd be dead.


Any business endeavor, such as rewriting existing LOB apps, should be performed only if it provides sufficient value to the business. Given that, I agree that totally rewriting ALL Windows applications for mobile / web / whatever won't happen. In many cases it's too expensive, or doesn't provide sufficient value. I also agree that enabling mobility via remote access is a valid solution for many use-cases, in particular as a starting point.


OTOH it's also true that a UI designed for large screen + mouse + keyboard isn't appropriate for smartphones, and even tablets. Doing everything via remote access results in craplications, as Brian Katz often likes to remind us. Especially given that many Windows applications weren't that great to begin with.


Given that, my recommended strategy is to identify the specific functionality - not necessarily complete applications - that would give the most bang for the buck, and rewrite only that. Continue to access the rest via remoting. Over time convert more and more, according to business priorities.


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