Citrix Demos of a New Kind of Virtual Machine for Mac

Citrix made a number of announcements last week related to Mac and iPhone. While most of these announcements were targeted specifically towards IT/enterprise customers, one announcement has more potential mainstream significance.

To start, Citrix released a free iPhone app called Citrix Receiver [App Store] which is a secure client application that allows you to run Windows applications over a Citrix network. It offers a more efficient method of transmission than VNC and should offer better performance. The app is available for free in the App Store and is intended for existing Citrix customers. Citrix also unveiled an "App Store" for IT applications called Dazzle allowing managers to offer specific applications to their clients on both Mac and Windows. Dazzle and the Receiver application for Macintosh won't be available until the second half of this year.

Perhaps most interesting, however, was Citrix's demo of their new virtualization solution XenClient for the Mac. Virtualization is the process by which you can run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single computer. It has been frequently used on the Mac to run Microsoft's Windows in conjunction with Mac OS X. Citrix first started publicizing their plans for a new kind of Virtualization called "Type 1 hypervisor" back in January.

The technology promises to offer a faster and more secure virtualization environment than existing solutions. Parallel's and VMWare's solutions are considered "Type 2 hypervisors" which must run under a host operating system such as Mac OS X. While this simplifies the implementation, it also results in potential security vulnerabilities as well as a performance penalty due to the added level of abstraction. In contrast, "Type 1 hypervisors" run directly on the "bare metal" hardware.


This video (above) shows this software running on a PC and naturally focuses on security and IT usage, but does touch on the fact that each virtual environment has full access to the 3D hardware. Traditionally, these features have been handicapped on virtual machines, requiring Mac users to reboot to take full advantage. A video from the Citrix keynote event showing a brief Mac demo is available and starts at 42 minutes in. Citrix did not give an exact release date for the Mac version of XenClient.

What this means to the average consumer, however, isn't entirely clear. The creation of such a low-level virtualization solution apparently required a close partnership with Intel and we're not certain if other solutions will be able to easily mimic the functionality.

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