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Let their powers combine: Use Intune, RemoteApp combo for virtual app delivery

Microsoft Intune, App-V and RemoteApp all let you deliver apps to mobile devices, but no one approach is perfect. A combination of Intune and RemoteApp for virtual app delivery can work well.

Using a combination of Microsoft Intune and RemoteApp for virtual apps, you can deliver the applications users...

need to their mobile devices.

Microsoft provides a number of different ways to deliver virtual applications to mobile devices. As an administrator, it can be challenging to figure out which option -- or which combination of options -- is the best fit for your organization's needs.

Microsoft's primary tool for delivering applications to mobile devices is Intune, which is essentially a tool for managing a variety of mobile device types. Application distribution and management is a key Intune feature.

Microsoft Intune includes an area called the Apps workspace. As the name implies, this is the area where administrators can manage mobile apps. An administrator can view and modify app properties, add license agreements to managed apps, manage app deployments, add new apps, edit the properties of managed apps or delete apps.

The Apps workspace works hand-in-hand with another Intune component called the Intune Software Publisher, which lets you control the location where apps will be stored before you distribute them to PCs and mobile devices. Apps can be stored in the Intune cloud, or the Publisher can provide a link to a Web application or to a mobile app in an app store.

Where Intune falls short

One thing Intune does not do is translate apps so they can work on any device. A Windows application for example, cannot run natively on an Android device. Intune does include support for deploying apps to commonly used mobile operating systems, however.

The Intune software installer can deploy apps in three different ways. First, you can package and sign an app and then upload it to the Intune cloud. By doing so, you can make the app available to users through your company's portal. The second way you can deploy apps is to send them directly to computers that have the Intune client installed. The third option is to install apps onto mobile devices through side loading. This technique allows the apps to be installed via an installation file and completely bypasses the app store.

Apps must be packaged prior to distribution to a mobile device. Intune supports these types of app packages:

  • Windows Installer (.EXE and .MSI)
  • App Package for Android (.APK)
  • App Package for iOS (.IPA)
  • Windows Phone App Package (.XAP, .APPX, or .APPXBundle)
  • Windows App Package (.Appx, .APPXBundle)

Although Intune makes it relatively easy to make apps available to users on various mobile platforms, there is still the issue of the apps themselves.

Some application vendors provide versions of their apps that run on different platforms -- an Apple iOS and a Google Android version, for example -- but not every vendor does this. Even if a vendor provides support for all mobile platforms, there are costs to consider and the app may not behave the same way on each platform. For example, the Microsoft Office application works differently on the Windows desktop, iOS and Windows Phone.

Combine the powers of Intune, App-V and RemoteApp

You can avoid these types of problems by using application virtualization and remote hosting. Microsoft's application virtualization product is App-V, which packages apps with everything they need to run. App-V does not include support for streaming virtual applications to non-Windows platforms, however.

A better way to make applications available to users on a variety of mobile platforms may be to use RemoteApp, a Windows Server component that's also available in Microsoft Azure. RemoteApp allows an application to run on a Windows Server, and then be made available to users through the RemoteApp client. Microsoft provides RemoteApp clients for Windows x86, Windows x64, Android, iOS and Mac.

The RemoteApp client works similarly to the Remote Desktop client, except the client is specific to a particular application. Launching the client opens the corresponding application rather than opening a full-blown remote desktop session.

Because the RemoteApp client is available for various mobile platforms, you can make it available to mobile device users through Microsoft Intune. Users can therefore access the remotely hosted application through the company portal, or have the client sideloaded onto their device.

Making applications available to mobile users can be challenging because Microsoft offers many different components for doing so, and none of them are a perfect fit alone. By using a combination of RemoteApp and Intune, you can make applications available across a variety of mobile devices.

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This was last published in June 2015

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What methods and products do you use to deliver apps to users' mobile devices?
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For external users, use the app store with iTunes. Android is Google Play. For internal, we have our own private app stores for employees to use for installing sanctioned apps.
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