Citrix Solution Lets MacBooks Access Windows Virtual Environments

With DekstopPlayer for Mac, users can access their Windows virtual desktops even if they're offline.

Citrix is rolling out a solution that will help mobile employees using MacBooks access their Windows virtual desktops, regardless of whether the network connection is poor or unavailable.

Citrix on Jan. 9 unveiled the DesktopPlayer for Mac, which company officials called a boon for both the employee and an organization's IT department at a time when more workers are remote or mobile and they increasingly are using their own systems.

With the new product—part of Citrix's larger FlexCast architecture—mobile workers have continuous access to their Windows virtual desktop, even when the network they're using is impacted by low-quality connections or traffic congestion, or is simply unavailable. For IT departments with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, DesktopPlayer for Mac means they retain control over the Windows virtual desktop environments that they can continue to centrally manage, officials said.

Citing numbers from Forrester Research, Citrix officials said they expect the BYOD trend to grow. Forrester analysts expect sales of new laptops used in BYOD environments to grow from more than 5 million this year to more than 7 million by 2016. Also by 2016, the number of employees using their own laptop or tablet for work will double, according to the Forrester numbers.

The BYOD trend is fueling a rise in the number of Apple products making their way into the corporate environment, which is putting more pressure on IT departments to find ways for employees to access Windows applications. A Citrix survey found that enterprises expect the presence of MacBooks in BYOD environments to grow from 5 percent of their employees currently to 16 percent by 2016.

Other virtual desktop vendors, such as VMware, also are offering solutions that will make it easier for organizations to bring Apple products into their corporate environments.

"The popularity of Apple products in businesses is clearly growing at a brisk pace," Calvin Hsu, vice president of product marketing for desktops and apps at Citrix, said in a statement. "Enterprises are deploying desktop virtualization to enable mobile work styles and manage the diversity of devices that users are bringing into the workplace. With the introduction of DesktopPlayer, these organizations can now address a rapidly growing set of users: mobile employees who need to access their virtual desktops on their MacBooks while disconnected."

Through the Personal vDisk technology in DesktopPlayer, IT departments can keep control over the base golden image while enabling users to install custom or departmental Windows application as well as device and printer drivers. In addition, when using XenDesktop with DesktopPlayer, the base image remains consistent even when the same Windows virtual desktop is deployed locally to Mac and PC laptops.

In addition, if the Mac is lost or stolen, IT departments can prevent access to the local virtual desktops, or even make them expire or remotely wipe them from the machines.

DesktopPlayer is available now as an add-on to XenDesktop FlexCast for $75 per user per device.

The virtual desktop market is getting increasingly competitive, both with on-premises solutions and in the cloud. Citrix announced it was buying Framehawk to enhance its capabilities in delivering virtual desktops and applications over wireless networks to mobile devices.

For its part, VMware this week bulked up its end-user computing (EUC) offerings by adding to its leadership team, including two executives hired away from Citrix. Bob Schultz, who most recently was group vice president and general manager of desktop and applications for Citrix, will now be the chief strategy lead for VMware's EUC business. In addition, Sumit Dhawan, previously Citrix's group vice president and general manager for enterprise mobility, will lead VMware's desktop business and organization.