With end-of-extended-support for Windows 7 still two years away, you may be wondering, “What is the Citrix strategy for users who will remain on Windows 7 virtual desktops until 2020? Will these users see any product improvements? Or will all future enhancements to XenDesktop be limited to Windows 10?

Rest assured, we have a strategy for providing not only continued software maintenance but also important product enhancements for users still on Windows 7. Many large organizations will continue to use Windows 7 under Extended Support and even expand their deployments over the next two years. Our strategy for Windows 7 is designed to meet the needs of these customers while also ensuring continued rapid innovation on Windows 10.

XenDesktop 7.16 (VDI model) introduced a new Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) that is fully optimized for Windows 10 and no longer supports Windows 7 virtual desktops. This was an important step forward that allows us to embrace the latest Microsoft technologies while also reducing complexity. Graphics performance has been improved. With a VDA that’s optimized for Windows 10, we have been able to both improve user experience and simplify configuration and ongoing administration. Windows 10 brings with it a new generation of Microsoft graphics technologies. Windows 10 v1607 introduced the new Indirect Display Driver (IDD), to name one example, and the HDX graphics stack is evolving to take advantage of the latest Windows capabilities. PDF printing benefits from Microsoft’s native Windows 10 drivers. And Windows Continuum allows users to roam from a mobile device (touch-enabled, small form factor) to a desktop configuration (keyboard, mouse, monitor) with an automatic adjustment of the user experience.

So, what about users on Windows 7 virtual desktops?

The first step in our strategy was the declaration of XenDesktop 7.15 as a Long-Term Service Release (LTSR). This ensures that Windows 7 users will benefit from product quality improvements and security updates through to the end of extended support in 2020.

The 7.15 LTSR VDA can be used with a 7.16 Current Release (and beyond) XenDesktop infrastructure. This means that the administrative benefits of our latest XenDesktop software are available even while end users continue with Windows 7 virtual desktops.

In addition, as we add new features or enhance existing XenDesktop features to benefit end users, we assess their importance to customers still using Windows 7. There is a need for balance here, as it would not make sense to backport every new feature from the Current Release VDA for Windows 10 to the VDA for Windows 7. However, we are committed to providing selected important features and enhancements to these users.

A good example of this is the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business, which now has over 400,000 Daily Active Users, as measured by Microsoft telemetry. We designed this valuable feature as a VDA add-on, rather than embedding the HDX RealTime Connector code into the VDA itself. Also, we’ve ensured that new releases of this VDA add-on retain compatibility with older VDA releases that are still under active maintenance. Last month, we introduced our first Long-Term Service Release of the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack, version 2.4. We also introduced a new version of the HDX RealTime Media Engine that supports the low-cost HDX Ready Pi. This new release is available for both Windows 10 and Windows 7 virtual desktop users (and also for XenApp users).

What about Windows 7 users accessing external video sites like YouTube? With Adobe Flash rapidly losing market share, will these users be able to benefit from the new Browser Content Redirection feature for external HTML5 Video sites, which we introduced with XenDesktop 7.16 and Citrix Receiver for Windows 4.10? Yes, that is exactly our plan. We will offer a version of Browser Content Redirection that is fully compatible with Windows 7 virtual desktops, providing offload of the server CPU for maximum scalability and an optimal user experience.

This year, Citrix is also introducing major user experience improvements to StoreFront and Cloud-based Citrix Workspace. Users of Windows 7 virtual desktops will be able to benefit from these innovations, with greater control and personalization of their workspace.

As we develop new features for the Windows 10 VDA Current Release, our product managers will be looking for your input on the importance of potentially backporting them for Windows 7 users. Please work with your Citrix Sales team so they can log your requests and forward them to the Product Management team. We will evaluate these opportunities based on value to our customers versus development cost. We’ll be careful to look for the best balance, so that we keep your Windows 7 users happy and productive while we push the pedal to the metal on Windows 10 innovations, recognizing that Windows 10 will be the new standard for VDI in 2020.

Derek Thorslund
Director of Product Management

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