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Citrix shows remote app capability for Palm

Just a technology demonstration, honest...

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Citrix's IBM roots were showing yesterday when company CEO Mark Templeton mounted a "technology demonstration" of a Palm Pilot running applications remotely from a server farm at the company's Advanced Technology Research facility in Cambridge, UK. Even during the glasnost period that immediately preceded the appearance of Chairman Lou IBM rigorously refused to discuss unannounced products, so contrived to trail them by showing them as "technology demonstrations." Citrix's Palm rig is indeed not a product, and isn't precisely going to be one either, but it's clearly a signal of where the company will be going with products and services Real Soon Now. The demo was really intended as a showcase for the sort of stuff Citrix hopes to be able to sell to wireless service providers. The Palm itself already has a wireless capability, and there's a logical associated need for mechanisms to allow its users access to remote applications. But the big bucks are going to come from the mobile phone companies, with short term demand centring on Europe's GPRS (General, aka GSM, Packet Radio System), which will be live in Europe shortly, and a little further down the line on UMTS, the next generation broadband European wireless system. The Palm demo used a version of Citrix's Vertigo protocol for connectivity. Citrix's ICA protocol isn't appropriate for devices with small screen real estate like the Palm, so under Vertigo, which is currently undergoing development, all of the objects in the user interface are actually held on the server. The server itself was more interesting still. When The Register spoke to Citrix founder Ed Iacobucci he couldn't be specific about what it was running, but the probability is that it was a flavour of Unix. Earlier in the week Citrix demoed Notes being run remotely on Solaris, so probably it was Solaris again. The Palm ran two custom apps which, according to Templeton, took only a couple of days to write. One gave stock prices, the other weather conditions, i.e. just the kind of stuff people are likely to want to access via a mobile phone. But as with the Notes demonstration, that points up the growing divergence between Citrix and Microsoft. Fort Redmond is also keen on providing server applications for wireless clients, but its roadmap, naturally, consists of NT servers and BackOffice applications. From the user's perspective it's the information that's important, not whether it conforms to the Windows Everywhere plan or not, and the wireless outfits this sort of rig is going to be sold to are going to be much more concerned about scalability and cost than they are about Windows. So Unix does kind of beckon. And on the cost front Citrix piled it on by introducing a pay as you go licensing plan today (story to follow). This again will be music to the ears of wireless outfits, and by a massive coincidence these were addressed by Citrix as a target category in the announcement of the scheme. ®

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