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IBM Mobile launched a DaaS product based on Citrix Workspace Suite. Ordinarily, I'd say that's great news, and validation that DaaS is here to stay. But in this case, the offering is for the sole purpose of delivering Windows desktops and applications to mobile devices.
"What's the problem with that?" you might ask. Have you ever tried to use a Windows desktop or app on a mobile device? It's a great party trick -- and quite handy in a pinch -- but for day-to-day use, accessing Windows via a smartphone or tablet is like trying to paint a wall with a spatula. It looks like it might just work, but it's the wrong tool for the job.
The ability to run Windows on a device that was never intended to do so might tempt you to laugh at the desktop gods. But no matter how much work went into creating the client, how many gestures it supports, or how aware it is of applications that are running, eventually you'll become frustrated. It might be with pinch zooming, or soft keyboards, or offset mouse cursors, but eventually it will happen.
Mobile devices are just not meant to support daily use of Windows desktops and applications. Period.
It's not all doom and gloom
That's not to say that a desktop as a service (DaaS) product from IBM Mobile is a bad idea. Placing applications and desktops (when needed) in the cloud for use on more devices is a smart move. It doesn't even have to be in the cloud, frankly; on-premises application and desktop virtualization deployments are fine, too. It's just not enough.
To make a truly effective offering that lets mobile users interact with Windows applications, IBM (and other companies attempting the same thing) must add some sort of app refactoring angle. There are several companies that do this. PowWow, Hypori, Capriza Inc. and Reddo Mobility all have products that can refactor -- or transcode -- Windows apps running in VDI or Remote Desktop Session Host into mobile applications on the fly.
Each tool works differently, but the high-level explanation is that Windows apps go into the refactoring product, and mobile interfaces to those applications come out. Think of it like mapping fields in a mobile app to fields in a Windows app, adding in the ability to re-do the layout and workflow to make it more intuitive.
Combine a DaaS offering such as the one that IBM Mobility announced with app refactoring and you have a complete way to provide mobile users access to the applications they need without re-writing the applications.
Without app refactoring -- and this goes for anyone thinking about using desktop virtualization alone to support mobile access to applications -- you've got nothing more than clunky product that makes for a good demo and not much more.
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