Wednesday, 14 May 2014 17:46

Citrix focuses on mobility


Although Citrix has a broad product portfolio, "we believe that everything is mobile," according to a senior executive, and so the company has made several announcements from the mobility side of its business.

Speaking at the Citrix Mobility mForum 2014 in Sydney yesterday, the company's Asia Pacific vice president Rob Willis (pictured above) said "we believe that everything is mobile."

But he warned "the X factor is user experience... the technology has to become invisible," just as drivers don't need to worry about what happens under the bonnet when they press the accelerator - the car simply goes faster.

So if an organisation can find technology to ensure that applications, data, desktops, collaboration tools and a way to isolate the personal from the professional are broadly supported, then "any device can become a state of the art workspace," Mr Willis said.

Some of the ways Citrix provides such technology can be seen in the recently announced XenMobile 9, which features updated versions of the Worx apps plus new members of the family.

Senior technologist Richard Parnell joined Mr Willis to demonstrate the new and revised apps.

WorxMail (business email within a secure container) now provides for easy and quick email triage, partly through the use of gestures to delete emails or mark them as read, while WorxWeb (secure web access) also gains user interface improvements plus offline support.

Mr Willis told iTWire that WorxNotes is used throughout Citrix, and he is personally looking forward to getting the new version.

What are the new Worx apps? See page 2.

The three new apps are WorxNotes, WorxEdit and WorxDesktop. "You've got to make it simple for people to get their stuff done," Mr Willis told iTWire, or people won't use the tools you provide and instead turn to consumer-grade tools that lack adequate security.

So WorxNotes was designed to provide ease of use that matches consumer-oriented note-taking apps, but with the security (via an encrypted container and the use of ShareFile for cloud storage) and other features required in a business environment. WorxNotes adds a 'Create Note' item alongside the copy command in other applications, and allows photos and audio recordings to be added to notes.

WorxEdit provides a convenient way of editing office documents whether they are received as attachments in WorxMail, or stored in ShareFile or on a desktop. Any changes can be synced and shared.

WorxDesktop is "a great way to get info on your mobile devices," Mr Willis said. It provides remote access to Windows and OS X systems, whether that is for a full remote desktop, or more typically, he suggested, access to an individual application or to transfer a file. WorxDesktop is especially valuable for urgent tasks that would normally mean the person would have to find a PC rather than using their smartphone or tablet.

Local customers want a "wonderful" mobile user experience, Citrix vice president for mobile technologies Aaron Cockerill (pictured below) told iTWire, and any apps need to provide an experience that is at least as good as their native equivalents.

Citrix Aaron Cockerill 550

Citrix has invested in this area while developing XenMobile 9, and the feedback from customers using the technology preview release has been positive.

"In mobility, the user experience is paramount," he said, so for example WorxNotes addresses issues around integration with mail, calendar and conferencing that aren't a real consideration in consumer notes apps. For instance, a shared grocery shopping list doesn't usually say exactly when an item is to be purchased (it's usually implied that it will be bought on the next visit to the supermarket) - but in a business context, scheduling is often vitally important.

The next step is to go beyond productivity and collaboration apps, and bring business-specific apps into the picture. "We're working on a vision to solve that problem," Mr Cockerill told iTWire.

What does that vision involve? Please read on.

The best mobile apps aggregate multiple sources of data, he said, but it is not reasonable to rely on a mainstream enterprise software vendor to produce apps that work that way. So Citrix is going to help its customers, partners and independent software vendors to produce such apps.

Other demonstrations during the keynote included the newly released Receiver for Chromebooks (Receiver is the Citrix software that lets users "Access your apps, data and desktops from any device"), and a preview of a next-generation version of Receiver that features a more modern user interface, removes the Citrix branding, and incorporates the Framehawk technology acquired by Citrix earlier this year.

Framehawk significantly improves the user experience of virtualised applications and desktops even when the network link suffers from severe packet loss. "It really is magic technology," said Mr Willis.

The company has also announced Citrix Workplace Suite, a bundle of its products for secure access to all apps, desktops, data and services from any device over any network.

"Our real value proposition comes from the integration of all these components," said Citrix ANZ vice president Peter Brockhoff.

The suite is priced at US$450 per user (excluding maintenance), but a 50% 'crossgrade' discount is offered to VMware Horizon users until the end of the year.

Trade-up discounts of up to 70% are similarly available to customers that have already licensed XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile or ShareFile Enterprise.

Disclosure: The writer travelled to Sydney as the guest of Citrix.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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