The Citrix X1 Mouse

Citrix X1 Mouse

The Citrix X1 Mouse is genius, a perfect solution to the challenge of how best to run mouse dependent Windows apps on touch dependent iOS devices. Faced with the dichotomy of an operating system without mouse support, and a user experience that demands it, Citrix has developed a custom mouse that ignores Apple’s restrictions and interfaces not with iOS, but directly connects to the Citrix Receiver and from there on to the remote Windows host. The end result is a user experience almost indistinguishable from running Windows on a conventional laptop. If that is not enough, when used in conjunction with a Bluetooth keyboard, it even takes the cool but unworkable idea of using an iPhone plugged in to a hotel room TV as thin-client replacement and makes it real.

Customer response has been very enthusiastic, with some Citrix customers reporting that it is enabling them to consider supporting iPads as PC replacements. In a blog post announcing the the availability for the X1 Mouse, Chris Fleck said

“large IT organizations predict a 10X increase in XenApp mobile usage once they implement the X1 Mouse.” – Chris Fleck[1]

Every iPad and iPhone owning Citrix customer should go out and buy one today.

The X1 Mouse is more than just an excellent idea, it’s also a wonderful example of the gift that Citrix has for vision and innovation — turning to hardware to solve the tablet’s biggest user experience shortcoming is not the kind of move I could ever imagine VMware making. But click on that link and you would be forgiven if you start to think that maybe those guys at Elliott Management might actually have a clue about what ails Citrix. 

“Citrix’s sales & marketing organization is operating well below industry benchmarks on efficiency and effectiveness, with the weakest metrics among its peers. This is primarily the result of a highly cumbersome and ineffective go-to-market strategy. ” – Elliot Management [2]

In statement published in advance of the 2015 Citrix Synergy conference, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton reported on how consumerization is rapidly redefining enterprise IT.

“The reality is that the ever-changing consumer marketplace has come to define the technologies that people want to use at work – and rightfully so, since they offer significant enhancements to productivity and efficiency.” – Mark Templeton[3]

Consumerization has been central to Citrix’s strategy ever since its acquisition in Expercity in 2003 which went on to become Citrix Online and which Eilliott Management is so keen to be rid of. It was the consumerization of IT that led by individual employees bring their own smartphones and tablets into the office and and in so doing kick started the Enterprise Mobility Management industry, which in turn spurred Citrix’s 2012 Zenprise acquisition (now XenMobile). Yet for all its obvious commitment to consumerization Citrix has decided that the X1 Mouse is not for consumers. Even though Citrix VP of the Emerging Solutions, Chris Fleck says “This does not signal Citrix’s entry into the Mouse business,”[1] the only place you can buy the X1 Mouse is from a Citrix Solution Advisor or through the Citrix Store. Neither path comes close to the low friction “Buy it Now” experience that lubricates the consumer marketplace. The Citrix Store might the the right venue if you a looking for a few hundred XenApp licenses, but this is a mouse, why not just put it on Amazon and have done with it? For that matter, why not cut to the chase and include a “Buy it Now” button in the Citrix Receiver. Citrix must also review the pricing of the X1 Mouse. At $60 it’s up in the premium mouse price bracket, but with a distinctly non-premium appearance and a paltry 90 day warranty. Citrix has not ruled out the possibility of licensing the technology to h/w vendors in the future, a move which could go a long way to lowering costs and improving the warranty period.

Most importantly, Citrix has to decide why it is offering this mouse. Is it just a cool toy, something that might add a few million to the balance sheet, a marketing gimmick, or is it a serious bid to elevate Citrix’s business value beyond anything offered by it’s software only competitors. With the right marketing Citrix could well see its business customers demanding that IT buy XenApp just for the improvement in user experience the X1 Mouse offers. Which highlights potentially the most important value that the X1 Mouse expresses — the Citrix envisioned by Elliott Management could never have delivered the X1 Mouse. Which is better for Citrix shareholders, a pillaging run that would cripple the company’s growth potential, or a bit of selective pruning that allows innovations like this to thrive.

[1] The Mouse That Roared … For Business
[2] Elliott Sends Letter to Citrix Systems (CTXS) Board; Sees Stock Price of $90 – $100 by End of FY16
[3] Citrix Outlines Vision for IT Transformation

Citrix XenApp Has a Lifecycle Management Problem

We Love XenApp

On the Tuesday morning keynote that launched this year’s Citrix Synergy conference, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton took time to set to rest several years of speculation about the importance of XenApp. The message was unequivocal:

“We love XenApp.”

Templeton went on to review both how important XenApp is to Citrix and its importance in the enterprise. The top ten US healthcare organizations, top ten global pharmaceuticals, top twenty US energy companies, top ten US aerospace companies, top twenty global banks, top ten US banks, top ten US life/health insurance companies, top nine US school districts, and so on… all love XenApp. And so they should. XenApp is an excellent product. When it comes to Windows app delivery, in the right hands there is almost nothing that it can’t do and do very well.

But there’s a problem with XenApp that no amount of love or market share can address, and Citrix is now forced to acknowledge it. XenApp has been an excellent product for many years. When you have the best product on in the market, it’s hard to keep finding ways to improve it—at least, in ways that will make your customers want to upgrade to the next release. And that is the problem: Citrix customers are not upgrading to new XenApp releases at anything close to the rate Citrix would like. No one at Citrix has come out and said so, but the evidence is there. As Jo Harder reported for The Virtualization Practice last year, XenApp 7.5 was absent many of the more advanced features offered by XenApp 6.5. Those features returned only in XenApp 7.6, and even then, some were not as readily accessible as they had been in XenApp 6.5. Still missing is Project Serenity. Promised for 2014 and only now in beta, Project Serenity exports XenApp 6.x configurations and converts them from Citrix IMA to FMA architecture.

Citrix’s answer to these woes is welcome and at the same time troubling. Immediately after sharing how much everyone loves XenApp, Templeton went on to announce:

“We have decided to extend the lifecycle of XenApp 6.5 until 2017.”

– Cue Applause

The change sees end of maintenance for XenApp 6.5 moved from February 24, 2016, to December 31, 2017, and end of life moved from August 24, 2016, to June 30, 2018. The change applies only to customers who deploy the XenApp 6.5 Feature Pack 3, which was announced at the same time and will ship in June. Customers who don’t deploy the new Feature Pack will not be able to take advantage of the extended support dates.

There was no doubting that the audience would appreciate the news, and of course they did. You only need look at the number of organizations that failed to address Windows XP’s end of life until the last possible minute to know that there’s nothing that IT likes more than to put off a major platform update. But no matter how its customers feel, this is bad news for Citrix. After Citrix invested many millions in rewriting XenApp and XenDesktop to support a unified code base, its customers are staying away. And unlike Microsoft, which can rely on its effective monopoly to “encourage” its customers to grasp the nettle and upgrade, Citrix has to acknowledge that it longer has that luxury. So with Project Serenity late and a customer base that has no pressing need to upgrade, Citrix has little choice but to continue to pour resources into what it had hoped would be a legacy platform. Which means that after cutting 900 staff just a few months ago, Citrix, instead of consolidating support on XenApp 7.6, now finds itself with two versions of XenApp in active development.

Things are no better on the support front. Just one week before Synergy, Citrix lengthened the extended support period for XenApp 4.5 and the Windows Server 2003 version of XenApp 5.0 by another year, pushing it out from July 14, 2015, to July 14, 2016. Citrix strategy for extended support is that it is supposed to align with Microsoft’s end of extended support milestone for the corresponding server OS version. End of extended support for Windows Server 2003 is July 14, 2015, which means that Citrix has granted its customers another full year to upgrade from 4.5 after Microsoft hangs up on the support line for good. This isn’t quite the problem for Citrix that XenApp 6.5 is; at least Citrix is paid to provide extended support, so in theory it shouldn’t distract from supporting newer releases. As Windows Server 2003 is the last 32-bit server OS, customers holding on to XenApp 4.5 are likely doing so for better reasons than a simple reluctance to upgrade.

When Mark Templeton announced that XenApp 6.5 was being given a new lease on life, the news was met with universal applause. This may be good news for the customer today, but the long-term position is nothing but bad news for Citrix. VMware and, increasingly, Dell with vWorkspace are more than capable of competing with Citrix XenApp in the mid-market and in less demanding enterprise environments. What Citrix has achieved with XenApp is outstanding; however, in the face of serious competition on its home ground, Citrix can ill afford to squander resources on a product without a future.

XenApp Support Milestones

XenApp Version End of Mainstream Maintenance End of Life End of Extended Support
4.5 Expired Expired 14-Jul-2016
5.0 for Windows Server 2003 Expired Expired 14-Jul-2016
5.0 for Windows Server 2008 Expired Expired 14-Jan-2020
6.0 24-Feb-2016 24-Aug-2016 14-Jan-2020
6.5 Feature Pack 2 24-Feb-2016 24-Aug-2016 14-Jan-2020
6.5 Feature Pack 3 31-Dec-2017 30-Jun-2018 14-Jan-2020
7.x TBA 30-Jun-2018 10-Jan-2023

Citrix XenApp Has a Lifecycle Management Problem was first published by The Virtualization Practice  on May 26th 2015