First let me introduce myself, as this is my first Citrix blog. I’ve been with Citrix for nearly ten years now, in the slightly secretive world of ‘advanced products’ where we try to second guess what the next hot technologies will be, and help work out how our customers can benefit from them.

More recently I’ve been brought into the fold to help deliver ‘desktop appliances’. So what is all the fuss about?

I could start by describing the technical features of a ‘desktop appliance’ – by comparing and contrasting it to its close relation the ‘thin client’ – but that isn’t really the point. Much of a desktop appliance is about branding and packaging, but (and as an engineer it pains me to say so) this is really important stuff.

What is so great about the iPod or the Wii? They aren’t necessarily technically best of breed, but they are certainly well loved – why? I think the reason is simple – they set out to do a job, they do it well, and they do it with style. No one with an iPod feels they got second best; no one with a Wii feels intimidated by the technology. This is the point of a desktop appliance. When you arrive at work to find that one of these beasts is on your desk in place of a regular PC, we want you to be pleased, not horrified. Desktop appliances are designed to provide the best desktop experience – with style and with the minimum of fuss and bother.

So lets get technical. Is a desktop appliance technically very different from a thin client? Not necessarily – but where the thin client is a Swiss army knife, the desktop appliance is a scalpel. With a desktop appliance, you turn on, log on, and get your desktop. That’s it. Hardly worthily of a diagram – but here’s one anyway:

I’m a techie, not a marketer, and this is a blog, not a soap box; so lets get to some technical details. Essentially a desktop appliance is a device much like a thin client – but one which conforms to a strict set of rules. I’ve been working on this set of requirements – to make sure that every appliance that meets this specification will deliver a superb experience. The first desktop appliance specification covers ICA requirements, user experience and ensures that the boxes have sufficient resources to deliver all current ICA features, and enough extra head room for those features and optimizations that we hope to deliver in the near future.  Over time, as we add more and more optimizations and enhancements to ICA – and we are committed to doing just that – the desktop appliance specification will be updated, and appliances that meet the specification will provide these seamlessly and with the minimum of fuss.

Does this mean thin clients are dead? Not at all – they remain the Swiss army knife, flexible and adaptable in XenApp or XenDesktop environments. However with that flexibility comes the potential for complexity.

A desktop appliance is your desktop – a small, quiet box, a monitor and your keyboard. Turn on, log in, and go.