Microsoft RemoteApp À GoGo

From my previous blog posts HERE and HERE you may know that I’m a big fan of seamless remote Windows apps. Last week I had the opportunity to present an entire breakout session on Microsoft RemoteApp at BriForum in Boston — find the slide deck here: BriForumUS 2014 – RemoteApp 101. Preparing this session was great fun as it inspired me to take a real deep look at all the nuts and bolts of both on-prem RemoteApp and Azure RemoteApp. At BriForum it was interesting to find out that even at a conference with so many virtualization geeks attending, RemoteApp is a widely unknown technology. But why is that? Well, first of all, Microsoft has a track record of doing a particularly poor job in educating IT professionals about RemoteApp. In addition, a proper RemoteApp management UI is either missing (publishing RemoteApp programs in Windows 7 or Windows 8.1) or has definitely room for improvements (configuring RemoteApp in Windows Server 2008 R2 and later). Believe it or not, even some of the most experienced BriForum veterans don’t know what the RemoteApp and Desktop Connection component in Control Panel does and how to configure it.

But how good is RemoteApp? The good news is that with Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft shipped a version of RemoteApp that comes close to perfection: perfomance is great and almost all issues with taskbar live tiles, thumbnails and notification icons are gone. Only a small number of application still show erratic behaviour when dealing with the z order of dialog boxes (= handling overlapping windows). Access to RemoteApp programs is possible now from a wide range of endpoints, from Windows PCs and tablets to iPads and Android devices. The preview of Azure RemoteApp is a blast and adds the critically important cloud aspect to the application remoting story. In addition to their Azure RemoteApp cloud deployment model with preconfigured VMs and a hybrid deployment model connecting to on-prem resources, Microsoft came up with a third model only a couple of days ago. The Azure RemoteApps cloud deployment model now also allows you to create an environment based on your own template image, for details check this MSDN article. Generally speaking, RemoteApp — both on prem and in the cloud — may become an important cornerstone, saving thousands of “legacy” Windows apps from being extinct anytime soon.

Still IT pro and user acceptance of RemoteApp is not as good as it could be. One reason is the poor Windows Server Manager UI as mentioned earlier. Another reason is that users get confused when confronted with a mix of local and remote applications in one single desktop. The difference in drive mappings when opening and storing documents is not intuitive. Printing may be different across local and remote applications and standard UI elements may look inconsistent. Add some user profile challenges to the picture and a great base technology fails just because of some nasty details.

C’mon Microsoft, you’ve got a great RemoteApp engine under the hood now. Please fix the final UX issues, provide an intuitive, stand-alone management UI and start educating your eco system beyond some random MSDN articles. It’s worth it!

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