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Although a version of Citrix DesktopPlayer for Windows wasn't released at Citrix Synergy earlier this month, we did get some acknowledgement that one it is in the works. It seems to be pretty far along, too. Citrix is taking signups for the Tech Preview that is due to be out soon on the DesktopPlayer product page.
It's interesting that it took this long, but it is a welcome addition to the Citrix product suite. DesktopPlayer for Windows won't be a cash cow, but it does address a problem that many of us have when looking at client virtualization: Not all use cases can involve destructive installs.
A destructive install is one that requires you to wipe a machine before installing anything. Because XenClient is a Type 1 hypervisor -- it runs directly on the host hardware -- you have to replace Windows with it so you can use it. After you load XenClient, you can then deliver virtual machines to the computer that look like they're running directly on the box. If you really wanted to, you could P2V (convert a physical machine to a virtual one) the computer, then install XenClient and then load in the converted virtual machine. Of course, that's a lot more work, not to mention the fact that it defeats the whole "single image management" use case that a lot of companies have.
DesktopPlayer was Citrix's answer to this problem. The company chose to support Macs for the first version because there wasn't a version of XenClient that could run on a Mac. There are licensing issues with not having OS X running natively on the hardware, so while it's technically possible, it just wasn't in the cards to use XenClient. Having a tool like DesktopPlayer meant that Citrix could support client virtual machines on both Mac and PC hardware.
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Of course Citrix isn't the first company to do this. In fact, DesktopPlayer for Mac is based on Oracle's VirtualBox, which supports the same style of virtual disk that Citrix uses in XenClient. MokaFive, Parallels and VMware all have enterprise-ready, manageable versions of Mac client hypervisors. By having a product that addresses the need, Citrix simply stops customers from dealing with its competitors while expanding its presence in your corporate ecosystem.
For many Citrix customers, DesktopPlayer for Mac wasn't enough. Shortly after the release, people started clamoring for a Windows version. Universities, for example, wanted to use it to support students with different OSes on their laptops. While many students have Macs, there are still a huge number of people with Windows-based systems (especially those gamers that should probably be studying). A university can't wipe a student's computer to load XenClient, so a Type 2 product like DesktopPlayer is perfect.
There's nothing incredibly sexy about client hypervisors, but when we're talking about bring-your-own use cases or additional management capabilities that we can't get any other way, they have a place. More choice is better, so I'm looking forward to an enterprise-ready, manageable Windows version of DesktopPlayer.