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How to keep Mac users happy with desktop virtualization

Virtual desktop infrastructures can include iPhones and Macs in addition to Windows systems. Learn about virtualization products that you can use if you're asked to support them.

Desktop virtualization is something that companies -- rather than consumers -- use, and therefore, we usually assume any discussion about this topic pertains to the Windows systems. But now that Apple is cool again, and iPhones and Macs are making their way into business environments, we should take a look at desktop virtualization with Macs.

And even if you don't think this is true today, eventually some executive is going to knock on your door and ask if you can integrate their Mac.

The good news is there's a lot you can do with a Mac and an iPhone in the corporate desktop world. Let's start with the iPhone, since it's easiest.

The iPhone is a client device, so it's a safe bet that people are going to want to use their iPhones to access the corporate desktop infrastructure. Fortunately, there are a lot of different clients for the iPhone.

With Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop, there's a Citrix Receiver (the new name for the ICA client) for the iPhone. It has been around for about eight months, and Version 2.0 is around the corner. Like all Citrix clients, the Receiver for iPhone is free.

If you're using VMware View, Wyse has released an application called PocketCloud that can be used to connect to your View environments. (Great app, stupid name!) Since PocketCloud can be used to connect to any remote host via pure Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), you can also use it for remote administration or to connect straight to Windows XP desktops. PocketCloud is cool, but it's going to cost you about $30 per user from the Apple App Store.

There are also some free RDP clients for the cost-conscious, such as iRDesktop and Remote Desktop Lite.

If you have Mac users who want to connect to your virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or Terminal Server-based desktops, there are a lot of great choices here, too.

The is really good now, as is Microsoft's new Version 2 of its Remote Desktop Connection client for Mac. And Quest Software recently released a Mac client that also supports its VDI and Terminal Server products.

Of course, you can also run Windows desktop virtual machines (VMs) directly on your Mac clients. VMware Fusion, Parallels Workstation and VirtualBox all have Mac versions of their Windows products. And if you'd like to be able to manage, secure and centrally deploy your client-based VMs, you'll be happy to know that MokaFive's client-based desktop virtualization product runs great on a Mac!

This is great --- but it's all about accessing Windows desktops from a Mac client. What if you have Mac desktops and applications you want to deliver to your users, either Mac or non-Mac?

There's a solution there, too.

A company called Aqua Connect has a product called Aqua Connect Terminal Services that converts an ordinary Mac host (or server) into a Terminal Server, allowing anyone to connect to the Mac desktop via RDP. And you get it all -- the dock, Mac apps, everything -- from your remote client!

All in-all, this is some great news. While you might not like Macs, at leastyou'll be able to support them!

Brian Madden, Independent Industry Analyst and Blogger
Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden'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. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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