The same Citrix technology that lets users access Windows applications from the iPad is coming to Chrome OS laptops built by Google.
Citrix Receiver, a front end for Citrix's desktop and application virtualisation software, will be released for Chrome OS this summer, says Citrix desktop vice president Gordon Payne.
Citrix products let IT departments host applications in the data centre and stream them to user devices, including thin clients, PCs, smartphones and tablets. Chrome OS laptops, which require users to do all of their computing inside a Chrome web browser, will become just "another door to the applications they already have," Payne says.
Google, in partnership with Samsung and Acer, is pitching the laptops in a hardware, software and support package to businesses starting at $28 per user per month. The three year contracts allow users to upgrade to new computers at the end of the term, and get replacements earlier if a device malfunctions.
While the price may be appealing to some customers, the problem of transitioning users from Windows applications to Chrome will be a roadblock, especially for customers who haven't installed any type of virtual desktop software.
But users of Citrix would have a much easier time, since the Citrix Receiver for Chrome OS technology will be very similar to what they already use to stream applications to other user devices. Citrix will reveal more about specific timing and pricing at the Citrix Synergy conference later this month, but a release is expected this summer.
“We just started a beta with live customers this week,” Payne says.
VMware, which lagged behind Citrix in bringing virtual desktop functionality to the iPad, is in the same boat with Chrome OS. Google said it has a partnership with VMware to deliver similar functionality through VMware View, but Google Apps executive Rajen Sheth said it is unclear whether VMware will be ready in 2011.
"VMware is building a version of VMware View to work within the browser," Sheth says.
Payne says the Citrix/Google partnership was "driven by our customers" who wanted to shift users to Chrome laptops. Using HTML5, Payne says Citrix Receiver will create a rich user experience in the Chrome browser. Citrix engineering teams have been working on the project for six months to make it fast and secure, he says.
Payne demonstrated SAP NetWeaver and Adobe Photoshop running in a Chrome browser tab.
Sheth claims Chrome OS represents the first operating system launch in history that won't require users to lift up and move their applications. All computing will either be done on web-based services like Gmail or Google Docs, or streamed through the browser with Citrix virtualisation.
Google hosted a few customers during a press conference to talk about their experiences using Chrome OS in beta. Logitech IT executive Sanjay Dhar said "We're excited about the Citrix stuff, that makes it totally usable in the enterprise."
Google claimed its own survey of customers shows that 75% of Windows users could be moved to Chrome OS with a combination of web-based services, offline access to tools like Google Docs and virtualisation. Microsoft declined to comment.