Imagine you are in your home office and start the brand new virtual desktop which has just been provided to you by your corporate IT team. You open Outlook, a meeting reminder pops up and you hop on the respective GoToMeeting session. Very soon you realize that while you can hear the voices of your colleagues, none of the participants can hear you, because your microphone is not available in the session, nor can you access your webcam.

After the meeting (which might have been very short for you) you’d like to print a mail with the agenda for a customer meeting tomorrow. You open the mail, you click on print, but there is no printer. Well you actually can see the printer in your office, but not the one next to you. So you need to use pen and paper instead.

Finally you’d like to copy a few files onto your USB drive. You plug the drive into the USB port on your PC and the local OS recognizes the device. But on the virtual desktop nothing happens.

If that would have happened to me, this would have been the first and last time I use the virtual desktop.

Now you may wonder why I’m telling you this. The reason is that this is the day-to-day reality for users accessing their virtual desktop by means of Horizon 6 RDS, the new feature for publishing applications and desktops based on Windows Server – Remote Desktop Services (RDS).

Peripheral support is an exceptionally weak spot for Horizon 6 RDS, despite all the noise VMware makes in regards to its “enterprise readiness”.

Actually weak may not be the right term. Non-existent might be better, since the only “peripherals” which are supported on a RDS server with Horizon 6 are mouse, keyboard and speakers. On the other hand, devices that not supported include:

  • USB, COM or LPT based devices
  • Webcams
  • Microphones
  • Local client drives
  • Printers
  • Scanners or TWAIN devices
  • SmartCard readers

This means as soon as some of your applications require a locally attached peripheral (e.g. a barcode scanner or a credit card terminal), you need strong authentication, or if your users would like to print (I believe a lot of users still do this) Horizon 6 RDS might not be the right choice for you.

Of course Citrix XenApp supports all of the aforementioned peripherals and provides a best-in-class near native user experience for any kind of centralized/virtualized application. Below you can find a chart that compares support for client-side peripherals for your reference:

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