I’ve been thinking a lot about Longhorn Terminal Services and the future of Citrix recently, and I found myself wondering what would happen if Citrix stopped working on ICA and just went with RDP. (Note: This editorial is not based on any inside information, and I’m not suggesting that Citrix is actually thinking about dropping ICA. I’m just thinking, “What if?”)
So, what if Citrix dropped ICA? This could be positive in many ways.
First and foremost, since RDP and ICA are almost identical anyway, dropping ICA would allow Citrix to focus their development efforts in other areas where they can add more incremental value over the pure Microsoft products. Citrix would just have to take the one-time effort to move the tertiary ICA features to RDP (SpeedScreen, Session Reliability, etc.), but this shouldn’t take too long.
Also, dropping ICA could be good from a strategic marketing standpoint for Citrix. (I know it seems backwards, but stick with me for a moment.) If Citrix dropped ICA, that would mean that Citrix is basically admitting that ICA and RDP are the same. So why is this important? Citrix’s biggest challenge now (and in the future) is to get customers to recognize that Citrix provides value beyond Terminal Server and ICA. By dropping ICA, Citrix would “force” the market to realize that Citrix offers more than ICA. If Citrix did this in the next two years (before Longhorn comes out) then they’ll have a great head start on their story about the value they can add to a Longhorn-era Terminal Server.
Finally, if you think about it, it’s inevitable that Citrix will be forced to provide “full” RDP support in the Longhorn days anyway. I mean they already let people connect to Citrix Presentation Servers via the Web Interface using RDP, and a Citrix connection license is consumed regardless of whether the user connects using ICA or RDP, so in effect they already support RDP. When the new RDP clients come out, Citrix will have to support the advanced RDP functionality such as seamless windows. So if Citrix is already supporting the full RDP client, why should they maintain their own client and protocol when they could instead just add a few cool features to the native RDP protocol that’s built into every server and client already out there?
Is there any downside to Citrix dropping ICA support?
I honestly can’t think of too many negative results stemming from Citrix dropping the ICA protocol.
Probably the biggest issue for Citrix would be that dropping ICA would indirectly “legitimize” the other server-based computing companies out there (Provision, Jetro, ProPalms, etc.) who use pure RDP. That would give these companies the ability to say, “See, we’ve been using RDP for years, and now Citrix has seen the light and is copying us.”
But who knows... What do you think?