VMware unleashes virtual desktops for Apple iPad

VMware virtualizes the iPad, but no word on Android

The VMware View Client for iPad will be available on Wednesday.

Virtual desktops on the iPad are yesterday's news - in fact, they're last year's news, having been available from several virtualization companies since 2010.

But until now, VMware customers with iPads were left out in the cold. Despite dominating the server virtualization market, VMware has fallen behind its rivals on several fronts in desktop virtualization, including the ability to deliver virtual desktops to tablets.

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VMware is rectifying that on Wednesday this week with VMware View Client for iPad, which will be available on the App Store. "We've been working on it since the middle of last year," says Pat Lee, director of end-user computing clients at VMware.

Just as Microsoft has struggled to adapt Windows to iPad-like tablets, VMware said it had trouble making Windows work as a virtual desktop on the iPad. "Windows really isn't touch-savvy," Lee says.

VMware employees used the View iPad client internally to work out the bugs, and product developers focused heavily on adapting the iPad experience to Windows. "We spent a lot of time building custom gestures to make sure it blends into the iOS experience," Lee says.

A help screen instructs users on how to right-click (you use two fingers) and how to click and drag. For those who would rather use a PC-like touchpad, VMware provided a virtual trackpad that can appear on the screen. "We want it to be as logical as possible," Lee says.

VMware is using the PCoIP protocol to deliver the remote desktops and says the View client will provide a secure connection to server-hosted desktops. Lee says VMware isn't seeing enough demand for Android tablets yet to rush out a client for Android. The View client for iPad will be free for existing users, who are charged either $150 or $250 per seat.

The VMware announcement comes nearly a full year after Citrix released Receiver for iPad, giving customers access to Windows applications and virtual desktops from their Apple tablets. Parallels also beat VMware to the punch in building an iPad desktop application.

Citrix Receiver also works with Android, and the iPhone. VMware, however, says it doesn't believe smartphones have big enough screens to make a useful desktop.

"We believe the right form factor is the tablet," Lee says. "With a 3.5-inch screen, you'd be pinching and zooming all day to do basic things."

VMware promised "instant-on" access to Windows desktops from the iPad, as well as support for Bluetooth keyboards.

Although VMware was late in delivering virtual desktops to the iPad, and has fallen behind Citrix in building a bare-metal client hypervisor, VMware may be ahead of the game in providing hypervisors for smartphones. VMware is building a virtualization system for Android phones that will let the phone run two OS instances, one for business use and one for personal use. LG will provide the first VMware-enabled Android smartphones sometime in 2011.

VMware's most successful business, of course, is building expensive server virtualization products and management software. VMware announced yet another server virtualization management tool this week, vCenter Operations, saying it will simplify management of virtual machines. VCenter Operations is designed to give operations teams visibility into the virtual environment, whereas previous management tools were targeted at infrastructure teams, says VMware's Rob Smoot, director of management product marketing.

Customers may be confused by the sheer number of management tools available from VMware and third-party vendors, but Gartner analyst Chris Wolf says: "That's why vCenter Operations is so important." This product is the first step toward creating a consolidated management platform, he says. "VMware's doing the hard work to build a truly integrated offering, and I expect the result to be a product that is quickly embraced by VMware's install base."

Learn more about this topic

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VMware's plan for the Apple iPad still taking shape

iPad as virtual desktop? Citrix says yes

Citrix embraces Apple with iPhone virtualization, app store for corporate IT

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