It's been awhile since we've talked about User Installed Apps (UIA) on the site. But with the news (rumor?) that AppSense is stopping development on their StrataApps UIA project, I'm starting to wonder if UIA even matters anymore? No, actually we've been wondering this a lot. I think I'm ready to say that UIA doesn't matter anymore.
(By UIA, I'm talking about some kind of dynamic run-time app packaging environment that could automatically encapsulate Windows apps that users install when they're running VDI on shared, locked-down disk images. Then their own apps could be bundled up and made available anytime they logged in, regardless of whether the base image was refreshed or not.)
Consider the timeline of UIA conversations on this site:
- June 2008, I first laid out the idea for UIA in my post about what it would take for VDI to become mainstream.
- Sept 2008, No need for "real" UIA support, just use a second VM instead!
- April 2011, AppDetective wonders whether layering will be ready in time to matter?
- July 2011, Gabe asked the audience at BriForum if they wanted UIA, and no one raised their hands.
- Oct 2011, Another post by me asking if UIA will become real.
- March 2012, AppSense releases StrataApps.
- May 2013, I post this article, asking the question again
Two alternatives to user installed apps
It seems like we have two alternatives to user installed apps today.
First is the fact that recent breakthroughs with block-level single instance storage technologies mean that we can have fully persistent, 1-to-1, high performance VDI for a decent price. So all this UIA trickery to make shared images work like traditional desktops isn't really necessary anymore.
Second is the fact that most (or all?) users now have smart phones and tablets they can use to get access to their personal apps. Five years ago if we blocked websites and apps from peoples' work computers, they'd flip out! But now if we only provide users with a locked-down corporate desktop, will they even care? They can use Facebook, Dropbox, YouTube, and Skype on their phones. They probably won't even notice that these things don't work on their work desktops. (Actually this is technique that I've written about in the past. If you want to get your users to move to a locked down desktop, just buy them iPads for their "personal" tasks. $399 for a user's admin rights is a great deal!)
So what do you think? Can we finally put this issue to bed?