Blog post

Wanted: Client Development for Microsoft VDI

By Gunnar Berger | October 15, 2012 | 3 Comments

This has never happened to me before. I was done writing a long blog on Microsoft’s RDP8 (RemoteFX) and how I wanted two things, 1) More client support and 2) Windows 7 support for RDP8. Within an hour of writing that blog I see this on twitter:

If you clicked that link you’d see that Microsoft has announced official support for RemoteFX (RDP8) into Windows 7. This is great news for those of us who really care about this market. I’m continuing to hold on to my belief that Microsoft wants to enter this market strong and this announcement is a big move in that direction. However, as awesome as this announcement is, my second point still needs some addressing: Client support specifically iOS support.

Client support:

It is my job to take daily calls from a variety of Gartner clients. 100% of my calls are EUC related, mostly around SHVD (VDI) or SBC offerings. In at least two-thirds of my calls iOS comes up. IMO tablet support is one of the top drivers of SBC and SHVD solutions. I have asked Microsoft numerous times about creating an iOS client for their RDS or VDI solutions and on numerous occasions I have received the same reply: “these features will come via a third party”. Based on the poor RDP clients that are currently in the market place I don’t think it’s a big stretch to say that “3rd parties” really means Dell Wyse (it’s the only decent RDP client out there). PocketCloud is a great RDP app at $20 a pop (yes I know there is a free one but it lacks many features), so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a RemoteApp capable PocketCloud app in the near future. I see a twofold problem here:

  1. I don’t pay for the client app on Citrix or VMware’s solution (and I shouldn’t have to considering I already paid for the host license)
  2. Dell has purchased Quest and Quest has a competing product: vWorkspace. I know Wyse and Quest are probably still managed as different companies but I feel that Dell wants to get into the VDI game and I think they will be successful at it. Having Microsoft depend on a partner with a competing product doesn’t make a ton of sense to me if they want to own this market.

I can’t help but think, what if Citrix or VMware said the same thing about their products. “No we don’t support it, we expect someone else to do this for us.” We’d, rightfully, give them tons of grief, heck we might just turn to a different product.

Why do we see Microsoft taking this “third party” stance?

I think the answer can be found in RDS. Any Citrix Admin knows that XenApp sits on top of RDS, so while the goal may be to deploy XenApp we first have to deploy and pay for RDS. This relationship makes it so there is no strong reason to innovate, that was Citrix’s job. This Citrix/Microsoft Partnership is one of best partnerships I’ve seen for Microsoft. The problem is SHVD isn’t as cut and dry as that.

In SHVD, you can deploy a solution that doesn’t sit on a framework built by Microsoft. Sure you’ll still need Windows OS licenses wherever they are applicable, but the architecture of SHVD does not literally sit on top of a Microsoft framework. This means much of the SHVD innovation is happening outside of a Microsoft framework, they are left out of the loop of this entire market. This is why we see Microsoft building the VDI solution in Server 2012.

If a survey I read by Imprivata turns out to be true (in that survey SHVD is on the rise while SBC is on the fall) then Microsoft needs to get into the SHVD game and it’s a different game than the RDS market because in this market they have to build the entire product from top to bottom. So how do they do this?

I see three roads for Microsoft:

  1. Dell vWorkspace: I could see a world where Microsoft stops any major innovation around management and lets Dell pick up the slack. A new Dell/Microsoft relationship would emerge similar to the Dell/Citrix relationship, but this relationship would be centered on the SHVD market. vWorkspace would do well building up off the VDI product Microsoft has created, also Quest tends to do management tools very well, so why not. It lets Microsoft take the same stance in the SHVD market as they do in the SBC market. I could buy this theory, but as unrelated as this may seem, Microsoft’s move with Windows 8 and Surface just make me think they might take a different road on this. I think Microsoft is realizing that to complete in this market they have to own the product, in the case of tablets they are taking control of hardware and software. I wonder if Microsoft will decide it doesn’t want to sit back and let others innovate, and instead decide to innovate themselves. I hope this is true, but even if the final result is a Dell/Microsoft relationship I think this too could be good for the market.
  2. HTML5: I think I’ve read everything there is to read about VMware’s Project AppBlast, and I’ve watched every demo that they offer, what I gather is that they plan on allowing you to connect to a desktop without a client, just by using HTML5. Citrix has a HTML5 solution as well. Microsoft doesn’t. Now the most interesting thing is Microsoft would be the biggest one to benefit from an HTML5 client. After all, they could try and build native clients for everything under the sun like Citrix has done, or overnight they could work on any device that has a HTML5 browser. This seems like the quickest way for them to deliver a client to an iOS device or Android, or any device for that matter.  If I’m Microsoft and I wanted to get in the game for real, this would seem like a great shortcut to that end.
  3. Just do it! That’s right, instead of depending on others to do it for you, and instead of taking an HTML5 shortcut, just do it. Take the bull by the horns and start writing some code to support iOS, Andriod, and Mac. With those three additional clients you’d cover the bulk of your user base and make this VDI product a viable alternative to VMware or Citrix.

Microsoft has proven that when they want to win a market they can do it; Office and Exchange are great examples of markets that Microsoft owns well. I think a third strong contender to the SHVD market would be welcome by many clients. Microsoft is doing well is so many of the components of the SHVD solution (broker, hypervisor, protocol) I hate to see them lose it to something as simple as building some clients. So Microsoft, if you’re listening, I have faith in you, and I think you entering the market will increase the adoption rate of SHVD and ideally lower the cost across the board (and maybe just maybe we can talk about cleaning up the licensing that surrounds SHVD). In any case, I welcome you to come in and own it, and I don’t think I’m alone.


Leave a Comment


  • Totally agree with you on this one Gunnar.

    Microsoft, if you are listening… this is a key area where you should put in the extra work. You are already working with Apple on Office for Mac, so what’s so hard about adding RemoteFX for Mac and iOS, and by adding Android on top of that you are supporting a whole lot of your clients a whole lot better.

  • Mary Beth Tice says:

    Another good paid app ($14.99) is Jump Desktop. Supports gesture.

  • Sheri says:

    What precisely really stimulated you to post “Wanted: Client Development for Microsoft VDI”?
    Idefinitely loved the post! Thanks for the post -Brianna