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Deliver apps to mobile devices on the fly -- without VMware or Citrix

A new company is offering an alternative approach to desktop application delivery to mobile devices, one that could save time and money for IT.

IT shops that want to deliver legacy desktop applications to mobile devices with limited resources and skills have a new option.

PowWow, a San Francisco-based startup, launched this month with a mobile virtual application service that allows customers to deliver Windows, desktop and Web-based applications to mobile devices using gesture and custom keyboard mappings on a per-application and per-device basis.

The company expects customers to use the product as a compliment to remote desktop session hosting (RDSH) or virtual desktop infrastructure platforms provided by the likes of Citrix and VMware.

While Citrix recently purchased Framehawk to improve its end-user computing portfolio in mobile app delivery and VMware will add RDSH capabilities in the upcoming Horizon 6 suite, PowWow offers  a native mobile experience with desktop apps, according to Brett Waldman, research manager at IDC, an IT analyst firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

If they don't have developer time they can just deploy PowWow.

Brett Waldman, research manager, IDC

"[PowWow] created an adaptive layer in the protocol and they have metadata for each device that allows them to do the user experience virtualization on the fly," Waldman said.

PowWow creates an alternative for customers that don't have the time, resources or skills to either develop their own native mobile applications or use a tool like Citrix's HDX mobile software developer's kit for that purpose, according to Waldman.

"If they don’t have developer time they can just deploy PowWow and get it up and running," he said.

DreamFactory Software Inc., a Campbell, California-based company that delivers desktop applications to any cloud via service architecture, had its desktop applications connected to platform as a service systems including a rich client plugin. But more customers started to use tablets, and DreamFactory was stuck in the browser world, according to Eric Rubin, DreamFactory's CEO.

"We needed something that could very quickly take our product…that could handle something fairly complex and deploy it on a tablet," Rubin said.

Enter, PowWow, which takes an application, loads it into its cloud and runs it on an Apple iPad -- with tablet gestures running and menu systems working -- within about 15 minutes, according to Rubin. DreamFactory was pleased with how painless the experience was for a company spread thin with its engineering staff.

"We had tried other approaches where you could share your desktop with an app but nothing that was specifically focused on a cloud delivery with our application in a very sophisticated algorithm for mapping gestures so you have a native tablet experience with our app," he said.

PowWow differentiation from Citrix, VMware

All of PowWow's customers at the time of its launch were either Citrix or VMware customers, according to Andrew Cohen, PowWow's CEO. But the differentiation comes in the adaptive user interface strategy that allows an application to be deployed on a mobile device in minutes.

"You see a peaceful coexistent with a lot of our customers where they'll run VMware for desktops for their consultants and PowWow for all their internal users who use iPads and Macs," Cohen said.

While VMware and Citrix are going down a path with elements of what PowWow provides (including VMware's Unity Touch, a Horizon View feature yet to be fully developed), the on-the-fly adaptation makes it a different option for IT.

"That's not a trivial thing to do," Waldman said. "If [Citrix and VMware] want to get to that point, it would probably be more likely they would try to acquire PowWow than to develop it on their own."

PowWow also allows any single-user application to become multi-user, with collaboration delivered as a service for application sharing, multi-user editing and real-time support.

While the collaboration piece was not a major driver for DreamFactory to get on board with PowWow, it may be useful for some of the applications within its DreamFactory Services Platform application suite.

"It's a simpler way to just start collaboration, so I imagine it will be used," Rubin said.

PowWow's collaboration capabilities also make it different from Citrix and VMware because of its more integrated experience, according to Waldman.

"That's a nice feature to have as people start to work and collaborate more as a really nice value-add for them," he said.

PowWow is available for $25 per user per month. It is either distributed directly to the customer or as part of an original equipment manufacturer agreement.

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