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VMware's Workspace Suite is missing something

VMware's Workspace Suite attempts to bring Windows applications mobile devices, but without an app-refactoring tool, the user experience is still frustrating.

It seems like everyone has a "Workspace Suite" these days, and now VMware has thrown its hat in the ring.

VMware has talked about its Workspace Suite as a bring your own device (BYOD) product because it includes AirWatch, Workspace Portal and Horizon. The first two products are part of an overall BYOD strategy, but Horizon -- like all other traditional Windows-based desktop virtualization products used on mobile devices -- falls a bit short of the mark.

Using Windows apps on mobile phones or even tablets has always made for a good demo, but almost everyone who has tried to use them for any ongoing reasons -- like work, for example -- knows that by and large, Windows apps on mobile devices is a parlor trick.

Mobile device users end up either frustrated by using an interface that is designed for a mouse, or lugging around so much extra hardware to support using the applications they need that they might as well have just brought their laptop to begin with.

That said, VMware has done quite a bit to make its mobile clients more useable than most others. The company added gesture support, an offset mouse pointer and the Unity Touch sidebar which makes it easy to do Windows-specific tasks like searching, opening applications and switching between apps without pinch zooming and swiping all the time.

It's an excellent product when compared to all the other mobile clients, but at the end of the day we're still trying to access Windows apps on devices on which those apps weren't designed to run. Is it a BYOD tool? Yes. Is it a great BYOD tool? Not really.

VMware would be wise to consider adding another product to the Workspace Suite -- one that does app refactoring. I have written about PowWow and Capriza, and more companies like those are appearing on the radar. App refactoring products slice up Windows applications into configurable chunks, allowing you to modify the user interface so it's friendlier for use on mobile devices.

You can group frequently used areas of an app together into a more logical view for a mobile device, and you can adjust the actual elements of the application to make them usable for fingers rather than mouse pointers.

If VMware (and Citrix, too) acquired an app refactoring tool, their BYOD offerings would be much more compelling. Rather than trying to shoehorn a company's Windows apps into a mobile device, customers would be able to transform any Windows or Web application into a mobile app on the fly without requiring access to the source code.

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