An update on the Citrix Workspace Hub: Citrix is serious about their low-cost thin client

My first look at this thin client option left me feeling like it wasn’t an enterprise device, so let’s get an updated look at where it is nearly a year later.

Citrix Workspace Hub had a fairly large presence in the Expo Hall at Citrix Synergy 2019, from vendors showing off their hardware versions to the Citrix booths on it—plus, all Citrix demos in the Hall were running on the Hub.

I looked at the Citrix Workspace Hub back in October, so I sat down with Cheng Zhang (senior product manager), Wayne Liu (product manager), and Johnny Zhang (development manager) to learn about the latest features and roadmap plans.

Citrix keeps improving it

Vendors like NComputing and ViewSonic remain the only way organizations can purchase the hardware, but Citrix continues to work on the software stack to improve the Workspace Hub experience for all customers.

Citrix Casting, which was the real standout to me when I first looked at the Hub, has been expanded to include proximity roaming (Android only for now) alongside QR code scanning for quicker log in (especially useful for healthcare). Wayne and the others I spoke with explained that Citrix wants to develop around the idea of trying to save users time and money by connecting quickly to any workstation. 

They explained that they were adding Citrix Casting to more OSes, with iOS and Android already in GA. Windows is currently able to mirror screens on multiple displays, while extending remains experimental. Meanwhile on macOS, the Hub can mirror the display, but cannot extend yet.

Overall Citrix believes user experience is key for the Workspace Hub; it needs to provide the perfect experience. To me, it looks like they’re adding in the extra features to make it more competitive with the more entrenched thin client vendors, while still keeping the overall project much more inexpensive. 

Roadmap features

Cheng and the others explained some upcoming roadmap additions coming to the Citrix Workspace Hub (though no specific timelines), with the current focus on making the management side easier. They're adding more device management features to the Hub to make it easier for admins to work with. Some forthcoming features include remote troubleshooting, centralizing ways for upgrading, getting the Hub to work better with local devices like keyboards, and making it easier for multiple Hub devices to extend displays.

They want the Citrix Workspace Hub to be a cheap thin client option, but at the same time to be the best one available. One way to do this is to improve the image management, which I was told is currently a little weak, so they’re working to bring the mobile device management concept to the Hub. You can currently manage each Hub through Citrix Endpoint Management or Stratodesk’s NoTouch Center.

Future of Work

In a separate conversation, Chris Fleck (VP and technical fellow) and Roger Cao (director of solutions development) showed off some more future-looking ideas that revolved around the Citrix Workspace Hub. It’s anyone’s guess whether any of these concepts ever make it to market (something a reporter loudly questioned), but each is still neat to talk about.

The first thing they demoed was making it easier for employees to personalize their desks in open seating offices using hot desking setups. Rather than spending several minutes every morning making your non-persistent physical desk feel more like yours (e.g., adjusting the desk height, displays, and everything else), you simply log in. Once authenticated, using the Workspace Hub’s IoT connections, everything connected automatically adjusts at the desk to your preference.

The setup Citrix showed off included a standing desk moving lower to adjust to a shorter person, a lamp light changing colors, and preparing the Alexa for Business for that specific user. They mentioned smart devices like Alexa could be useful for employees with disabilities, and then showed off using the digital assistant to send a spreadsheet to a colleague. Jack also saw the presentation and thought the smart assistant integration was neat. 

Overall, the idea centered around extending Citrix Workspace beyond just the desktop or mobile device and instead incorporating the entire office ecosystem. Organizations could use the Citrix Workspace Hub as a Wi-Fi dock, extend desktop screens for presentations, and for meeting room setups. And, tying back around to hot desking, employees could see a display showing all the open/occupied desks in the office in the morning—this could also be used to help employees find where someone is that day if you needed to talk to them (users could opt out over privacy concerns, if desired). Additionally, this could even be expanded with the recently announced Workspace Assistant and Workspace intelligent experience.

Citrix takes the Workspace Hub seriously

Citrix seems to be serious about continuing to improve their inexpensive thin client—it was obvious even before I sat down and spoke to anyone about the Hub just based off its presence at the show, from the Expo Hall to breakout sessions.

Still, despite the obvious use cases the Citrix Workspace Hub remains perfect for, I do struggle to see how it helps Citrix increase their growth. They make money indirectly off the Hub as it makes the Citrix platform more interesting, but actual hardware sales go to the partners. 

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I've been using the nComputing devices for about a year and am replacing our fleet of HP thin clients.  The stratodesk management software and hardware devices are heads and tails above the HP stuff I've been working with for 10 years.  And with Citrix driving the innovation updates are pretty fast which is great as HP was really really slow to update receiver.  I'm getting firmware quarterly now and pushing it out is a few clicks.  I'm super thrilled Citrix is finally driving this and has some skin in the game.  
There is another vendor Atrust the other way organizations can purchase the hardware.

Atrust introduces a new thin client t32C (powered by Raspberry Pi 3B+ and Pi Zero).The Atrust t32C Citrix workspace hub is designed for organization looking for cost-effective and high-performance solutions for their virtual workspace needs. With integrated WiFi and Bluetooth, Atrust t32C supports session roaming, QR code login, and screen casting. The Atrust t32C bundled with in house Linux software Atrust Client Setup (ACS) and central management tool Atrust Device Manager (ADM), management becomes simple and easy. The Atrust t32C workspace hub is complete with Skype for Business, H.264, and 2 high definition displays.
If Citrix want to see an ultra low Workspace Hub they should consider a Software add on solution in addition to their Hardware only options. Let's face it over 23 Million RPi's have been sold as of December 2018, you can buy them anywhere in the World

To provide Citrix HDX Dual Displays ThinLinX has developed a RPi Zero 7MB compressed image that boots over a USB OTG Cable connected to a RPi3B+ running ThinLinX TLXOS. 

Our RPi Zero Dual Display solution does not require a SD Card and does not require a power supply as it is powered, boots and networked over the USB OTG Cable which you can buy for way less than $5

Talking about $5 you can use either the US$5 or US$10 RPi Zero for the second Display.

ThinLinX can provide a FREE Hotfix to install this capability in around 30 seconds, the only thing missing is two small files that must be provided by Citrix, they are a binary called h264play that runs on the RPi Zero and the which is installed on the RPi3B+

ThinLinX has been a Citrix Synergy Sponsor at three Citrix Synergies over the years back in our hardware design and manufacturing days. We can easily add Dual Screen, Workspace Hub and RTME to our US$10 TLXOS for the RPi as a Hotfix now and then integrate into our next release of TLXOS due out in a few weeks

The RPi3B+ and RPi Zero and readily available anywhere in the World, there are many companies out there especially in emerging markets that are willing and able to assemble a RPi to save money especially on import duties as duties on a fully assembled RPi are much higher than a break down kit

As an additional bonus our ThinLinX Management Software (TMS) is Free and has been completely rewritten over the last four years and is available for Windows, Linux and as a Virtual Machine. TLXOS is updated via TMS in the form of Hotfixes and complete Firmware upgrades, this makes for very easy RPi Zero upgrades as it is never directly upgraded, the RPi Zero OS is stored on the RPi3B+

Food for thought Roger and Chris...

Great news everybody, the Raspberry Pi 4 with Dual displays has just been released :-)

Time for Citrix to consider a Software only version of the Workspace Hub :-)
Here's hoping Citrix will release their RTME to software-only vendors like ThinLinx.  :)  If I had that and a new RPI4, I could probably replace my laptop at home which I use mainly as a thin client for work.