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Deliver desktop and app virtualization for mobile devices

If IT pros want to provide their users with access to virtual desktops and apps on mobile devices, they should know which vendors offer which virtualization services.

To accommodate the influx of mobile devices in the modern workplace, there are a variety of products that focus on enabling virtual desktop and application access on mobile devices.

Not surprisingly, Citrix and VMware are at the forefront of desktop and app virtualization for mobile devices, but vendors such as Microsoft and Parallels have made important inroads, as well. These are certainly not the only vendors to embrace mobility, but Citrix, VMware, Microsoft and Parallels provide a good overview of the industry trends and demonstrate how the market for app and desktop virtualization for mobile devices is changing.

Each of these vendors must consider the mobile needs of a modern enterprise and has added new offerings and features to stay at the forefront of the desktop and application virtualization market.

Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop

Citrix enhanced its HDX protocol by adding HDX Mobile, which includes a set of features that target virtualization for mobile devices accessing Windows applications and server-level desktops hosted on Citrix XenDesktop or XenApp. Citrix HDX Mobile provides a native interface control channel that refactors Windows applications to support touch capabilities and to use mobile-specific device features such as camera and GPS functions, native menu controls, multi-touch gestures, and inertia-sensed scrolling.

If the native interface controls are not enough, developers can use the Citrix Mobile software development kit (SDK) to update Windows line-of-business applications to better accommodate mobile devices. For example, developers can integrate telephone and messaging functions into Windows application workflows or configure applications to use a device's local interface controls rather than Windows controls. This ensures that the application behaves more like a native mobile app. The Citrix Mobile SDK currently provides over 50 APIs to support virtualization for mobile devices.

Citrix also offers Receiver clients for Apple iOS, Google Android and Windows mobile devices. The clients work hand in hand with Citrix HDX Mobile to deploy Windows desktop applications to mobile devices. They also support the use of the Citrix X1 Mouse, providing users with a desktop-like experience on a mobile device.

The Receiver clients for mobile devices share many of the same features, but they also have some differences. For example, Receiver for iOS supports multitasking, Follow-Me Desktop sessions -- stripped down desktops often used in healthcare -- and the Framehawk display remote technology.

Receiver for the Android client, however, supports neither of these features. On the other hand, the Android client supports client drive mapping and auto client reconnect, unlike the iOS client. Both clients support audio and video playback, adaptive transport, Flash Redirection and Microsoft's RemoteFX display protocol.

Citrix and Samsung have also developed a method to use a Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+ or Note8 as a desktop using the new Samsung DeX docking station. A docked Samsung device running Receiver for Android can now use a big screen monitor, full-size keyboard and desktop mouse when connecting to a virtual desktop or application.

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services

Microsoft offers the Remote Desktop client for both iOS and Android devices, in addition to Windows devices.

Most of Microsoft's mobile support comes in the form of the redirection capabilities built into each Remote Desktop client.

Most of Microsoft's mobile support comes in the form of the redirection capabilities built into each Remote Desktop client. Redirection also allows users to take advantage of their devices' built-in capabilities while working with virtual desktops or apps. For example, the Remote Desktop clients support keyboard and touch redirection, allowing users to carry out tasks in the virtual desktop or app just like they would on their local devices.

The three Remote Desktop clients do not, however, support all the same redirection capabilities. For example, the Microsoft and Android clients provide mouse redirection, but the iOS client does not, and only the Windows client supports microphone redirection. On the other hand, only the Android client offers local storage redirection. All three clients support speaker redirection and clipboard text redirection, although only the Windows and iOS clients provide clipboard image redirection.

Parallels Remote Application Server

Parallels' Remote Application Server offers the Parallels client for both iOS and Android devices. The clients can redirect touch gestures, such as tap, drag, swipe and zoom, to virtual desktops and applications. In addition, the clients support local printing for iOS and Android devices.

The clients also offer mobile users the Quick Keypad feature, which makes it easier to navigate through application menus. They also support the Swiftpoint GT mouse, a Bluetooth device that brings desktop-like controls to users working from mobile devices. The Swiftpoint GT mouse provides many of the same capabilities as a traditional mouse, such as left-click, right-click and scrolling.

Parallels also offers an HTML5 client, which allows users to connect to their virtual desktops and apps from any HTML5 browser. Through the HTML5 client, users can access their desktops, applications and files without any complex setup processes. Users can also access multiple virtual desktops or applications from a single system by connecting to resources from individual browser tabs or windows.

VMware Horizon and Horizon Apps

VMware designed its Blast Extreme display protocol with mobility in mind. Blast Extreme uses a device's GPUs rather than its CPUs to help reduce battery consumption. The protocol is based on the HTML Access protocol and it uses the H.264 video format, integrating it with application and desktop virtualization for mobile devices.

Blast Extreme supports a wide range of platforms and devices, including iOS and Android. The protocol works in conjunction with the Horizon client running the mobile device, giving access to Horizon virtual desktops and applications. In addition to Blast Extreme, the Horizon client can use the PC-over-IP display protocol for greater flexibility when connecting to resources.

The iOS and Android clients also support native device gestures and a full-screen touchpad feature to navigate desktop and application deployments. The clients also come with the Unity Touch sidebar, which makes it easier for users to browse, open, close or search for Windows applications and files. The sidebar also lets users minimize windows and switch between applications without having to use the Windows Start menu or taskbar.

In addition, the clients include the VMware Horizon Client tools, which provide quick access to features such as the onscreen keyboard, virtual touchpad, virtual keyboard and configuration settings. The Horizon client is integrated with VMware Workspace One to facilitate enterprise mobility management. Plus, the Android client supports the Samsung DeX docking station.

This was last published in August 2018

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