Over the last 6 months, desktop virtualization companies have been getting into the mobile space in a big way, and not just with remote desktop clients. Currently, VMware’s offerings are lagging behind those of longtime rival Citrix. With VMworld less than a week away, let’s take a look at what VMware needs to do to catch up.
What does VMware have in the mobile space?
VMware’s current flagship product in the mobile space is Horizon Mobile, the yet-to-be-released incarnation of the now 4-year-old Mobile Virtualization Platform. For more details on what that looks like these days, read this article from last week VMware Horizon Mobile: surprisingly not dead *and* not terrible. VMware’s mobile file syncing product, Octopus, is in public beta, pretty much leaving the View clients for iPad and Android as VMware’s only live mobile products (and remote desktop clients barely count).
And what does Citrix have?
While Citrix doesn’t have a mobile hypervisor, it does have a fairly complete list of mobile products. First off, there’s ShareFile, acquired in October 2011. ShareFile is a mobile file syncing product that allows offline storage on mobile devices; it’s integrated with Citrix receiver; and files can be opened both in Windows applications (via XenApp) and in native mobile applications. To manage those native apps, Citrix has CloudGateway’s MDX features, which include app-wrapping capabilities, a browser, and micro VPNs.
The CloudGateway MDX stuff and Sharefile are both generally available already, and Citrix also has a sandboxed email client in the works for this fall. When this comes out Citrix will be able to build a completely isolated work ecosystem (by wiring together email, apps, and documents) on any standard iOS or Android device. (It should be mentioned that Citrix isn’t the first to do this—other mobile device management and mobile app management companies have similar offerings—it’s just that desktop virt companies have the advantage of being able to offer these as a components of solutions that are broader than those of the mobile-only vendors.)
What does VMware need to catch up?
VMware needs to announce several products to catch up, but fortunately for them it seems like most of them are in the works.
For email, VMware has hinted that the next release of Zimbra will include native mobile clients, which have not existed up to this point. Hopefully we’ll see these at VMworld, though the most recent release was less than two months ago. It’s a lot more likely that we’ll see an actual release of Octopus, which was first announced at VMworld US a year ago.
For mobile application management, VMware has been talking a long time about delivering any application to any device, showing slides with different types of applications (Windows, web, and SaaS) on one side, different types of devices on the other, and tangle of arrows in the middle. With the emphasis of “all types of apps to all types of devices,” it’s not too much of a leap to assume we’ll hear about some type of native mobile app management next week at VMworld.
Finally, there’s the potential to see either a public beta or the actual release of Horizon Mobile. What’s interesting about this is while Horizon Mobile is an Android-only product (since there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that Apple would allow iOS virtualization), native mobile app management techniques like app wrapping work equally well on Android and iOS. VMware has to build something to cater to the iOS half the market, but then they’ll have two completely different strategies for iOS and Android (manage just the apps for iOS, manage just a corporate guest VM for Android).
But consider that Horizon Mobile will only work with a few Android devices that happen to include the OEM enabler kit. That means that unless VMware wants to ignore all the other Android devices out there that aren’t compatible with Horizon Mobile, their hypothetical mobile app management product will have to work for Android as well as iOS. This would leave Horizon Mobile in a tough spot, because what company would want to use two completely different strategies for mobile devices when one single strategy (native mobile app management, as opposed to managing the guest VM) will work for all of the devices?
All is not lost for Horizon Mobile, though. While its Android exclusivity makes it not really a BYOD solution, it does have the advantage that native apps can be protected from users without any app wrapping, SDKs, or other mobile app management techniques necessary at all. Assuming that performance and battery life are okay, and that users don’t mind flipping back and forth between environments, it could be great for corporate-issued phones: it uses normal off the shelf apps, IT gets to be in control of the entire VM, and users get to do whatever they want on the personal side (including not even having a password, if they’re that adventurous or dumb!)
Wait until next week
We’ll learn the answers to all these questions next week at VMworld (unless they decide to hold anything off until Barcelona in October). Brian, Gabe, and I will be live blogging and tweeting (@BrianMadden | @GabeKnuth | @JackMadden) at the keynotes on Monday and Tuesday, and we’ll have articles, videos, and a radio show to talk about whatever we learn from VMware.