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Microsoft, Citrix lure VMware customers with cutthroat promo

Microsoft and Citrix are offering free Microsoft VDI and XenDesktop licenses to IT shops that are willing to drop VMware View, but will the promotion work?

Microsoft and Citrix Systems are offering IT shops using VMware View free licenses for their own virtual desktop software -- if those customers drop the VMware desktop virtualization product.

The promotion lets eligible customers with Microsoft's Software Assurance agreements trade their VMware View licenses for the same number of Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual licenses at no cost. Customers can trade up to a maximum of 500 licenses. On its blog, Microsoft refers to the trade-in as a "Cash for Clunkers" type of deal.

The promotion was part of a broader agreement between Microsoft and Citrix, which expanded their already close partnership this week. Citrix will offer additional collaboration between its XenDesktop and HDX technology and Microsoft's RemoteFX hardware technology, which will be built into servers and desktops.

Citrix also said the release of XenDesktop Feature Pack 1 will feature enhanced HDX technology, improved scalability and more. The feature pack will be available March 24, 2010. The upgrade is free for all XenDesktop customers with Citrix Subscription Advantage agreements.

Competition with VMware is red-hot
VMware has made strong plays with its desktop virtualization product, View, and is vying for the top spot over Citrix and Microsoft in that market. Since much of the desktop virtualization market is still up for grabs, such promotions aren't surprising. But while this promo may win some defectors, companies that have invested the time and money to install VMware View are unlikely to ditch it in a cavalier fashion for a new virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementation.

When the No. 2 and No. 3 companies in the industry have to team up to take on the No. 1 player, doesn't that make the one player look even stronger?
Tony Wilburn
Betis Group
One desktop virtualization integrator, Tony Wilburn at IT services company Betis Group, called the promotion a "desperate" attempt to generate buzz. He also said it has the added effect of elevating VMware.

"Has Microsoft ever before had to partner with another company in order to take on a rival?" Wilburn said. "When the No. 2 and No. 3 companies in the industry have to team up to take on the No. 1 player, doesn't that make the one player look even stronger?"

The promo deal will be available until Dec. 31, 2010, and is only good for customers with existing VMware View licenses for desktops covered by Microsoft Core Client Access Licenses (CAL) or Enterprise CAL suites with Software Assurance through Select, Enterprise and CASA family of agreements. Citrix and Microsoft representatives will make the final eligibility determinations.

The Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription will be valid until the termination of a volume-licensing agreement or a maximum of three years, and the Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual license is valid for one year.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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