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Microsoft bundles App-V with Remote Desktop Services

IT shops that upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 will get a bonus from Microsoft. The software vendor will include its application streaming technology in the license for free.

Microsoft surprised everyone last week by disclosing that App-V—its application virtualization technology—would be included in any 2008-level Terminal Server / Remote Desktop Services Client Access License.

App-V is Microsoft's application virtualization technology which competes with VMware's ThinApp, Citrix's XenApp streaming capabilities and Symantec's Workspace Virtualization solutions.

For years Microsoft has claimed that App-V was a necessary component for Terminal Server environments, and now it's finally putting its money where its mouth is by including the license in the Remote Desktop Services CAL. (Of course they're also increasing the price by 5% so in some ways this is more like a forced upgrade for people. However, that new price doesn't take effect until 2010, which gives you time to get App-V for "free.") But this is a real thing, and in fact you soon won't even be able to purchase the App-V for TS CAL anymore.

One of the cool things about this move is that Microsoft does not differentiate between minor releases when it comes to licenses. In other words, even though this App-V inclusion was announced around the "R2" release of Windows Server 2008, every existing TS CAL for the "R1" version of Terminal Server automatically has rights to connect to an "R2" version of the server, which also means that existing 2008 "R1" customers will be able to use App-V on their remote desktop servers for free. It also means that customers who are still on the "R1" version of Terminal Server 2008 will immediately be able to use App-V without paying an extra fee. In a sense, it's like a free upgrade for the whole world!

It's important to note that this license change only allows you to use App-V on a Remote Desktop Session Host server (the new name for Terminal Server). If you want to use App-V on a Windows client OS in a VDI scenario, you still need to buy the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) like you always have.

What this means to the industry

It's hard to compete against free. Microsoft has always been about adding more value to the core platform and I think this move makes it even harder for companies like VMware and Citrix to communicate the value of their application virtualization products versus what's now free from Microsoft.

Sure, each of the third party vendors does have specific advantages over App-V, but time will tell whether those advantages are enough to encourage customers to spend extra money on stuff they perceive as free from Microsoft.

Most likely the big companies like Citrix, VMware and Symantec will be okay because they really push their entire suites. Microsoft's decision to make App-V free will probably be more of a problem for the smaller single-product companies in the space like Xenocode, InstallFree and Endeavors.

Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, super technical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He's written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Brian's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. Brian is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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