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VMware sees multi-device future on Horizon

Declares Post-PC era not happening, talks up 'UI virtualisation'

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VMworld 2012 VMware has inched its vision of mobile computing forward, releasing an Alpha of a new product called the Horizon Suite that it hopes will make it easier to share apps and data among many devices.

Horizon Suite includes ThinApp, Horizon Application Manager, and Horizon Mobile, along with the apps-in-smartphone-sandboxes "Project Octopus" that VMware demonstrated at VMworld 2011. Those products now combine into a tool that make it possible to deploy virtualized apps to just about any device, thanks to a service catalog sysadmins can use to dole out apps to users.

One place it's possible to send those apps is iOS. The keynote speech today included a demonstration of apps being invoked inside a virtual machine on an iPhone, although cut and paste was not possible between the VM and other iOS apps. (We've got low-quality video here if you want a quick look).

The philosophical underpinnings for the suite come from VMware's belief, articulated yesterday by outgoing CEO Paul Maritz, that the Post-PC era is a misnomer. CTO Steve Herrod today proclaimed the PC alive, well, and likely to dwell among us for a goodly number of years. VMware is therefore keen to ensure that those charged with tending flocks of Windows and Mac OS machines have lots of ways to deploy and manage them more easily.

Herrod thinks there's an opportunity to do that in spades, as he quoted Gartner data saying 70 per cent of businesses are yet to move from Windows XP and Vista to Windows 7. Many will do so next year, Herrod stated, adding that he wants VDI to be ready to help.

To that end, Herrod also showed off the fruits of VMware's Wanova acquisition, in the form of a product titled Mirage that made it possible to remotely deploy Windows desktops to PCs.

The longer game VMware wants to play is delivering apps and access to data on whatever device a user cares to use at any given moment, which it calls the "multi-device era." The iOS demo mentioned above is one of its ways to shape that era.

Another is a pre-release technology it demonstrated called “user interface virtualization, which re-skinned Windows so that it made sense on a tablet interface. Windows' "recent documents" list was re-rendered as a set of ready-to-poke icons, while ALT-TAB to move between apps was replaced by cover-flow style swiping between oversized icons.

Such tricks certainly impressed the VMworld 2012 Day Two keynote crowd, no matter that many were doubtless suffering minor, liver-related inconveniences.

Yet the keynote also, in a way, showed how far VMware hasn't come in a year. Project Octopus wowed VMworld 2011 audiences. It may now be incorporated into a product with a real name – namely, Horizon Suite – but there's still no indication of when that will go on sale.

Herrod promised a beta late in 2012. Just when in 2013 VMware will go over the horizon remains to be seen. By the time it gets there, Microsoft's Windows to Go will have gone forth for several months and will have had its own chance to shape the multi-device era. ®

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