Now, Now VMware Let’s Be More Accurate

VMware ThinApp marketing slightly deceptive

VMwares not so accurate marketing message

A few weeks after writing How to ThinApp Smartstation?, I began pilot testing the ThinApp’d SmartStation to a small group of end users here at the firm.  Man was I unpleasantly surprised at just how limited ThinApp is.  There are a few “gotchas” specific to SmartStation that I would like to share that I had to learn the hard way.

SmartStation 4.5 is not supported on Windows 7 64-bit

This I knew going into the ThinApp process but the way that VMware has marketed the product, you’d think that this should not be an issue.  You’d think that it should work regardless of the O/S that the application is being deployed to.  WRONG! I filed a support request because I could not get my SmartStation ThinApp to work on Windows 7 64-bit.  The Support Technician informed me that:

Applications That ThinApp Cannot Virtualize ThinApp cannot convert some applications into virtual applications and might block certain application functions.  In those cases you must use traditional installation technologies to deploy some application types.

– Applications that do not natively support the deployment operating system:  If an operating system does not support the native installation of an application, that operating system is not a supported ThinApp deployment platform for that application.

And there you have it.  This information can also be found in the VMware ThinApp User’s Guide (which I must have overlooked).

To the Soapbox I Go

Now I don’t have a problem with this being a limitation of the software.  This is okay with me.  But, I have a slight problem with how the product is marketed.  Like I stated earlier, you’d have no idea that this is a limitation.  It’s marketed in such a way that legacy applications that obviously were written before Windows 7 and quite possibly before the existence of 64-bit operating systems, should work on Windows 7 period.  The product does not do what it says it will do.

The SmartStation ThinApp Did Work on Windows XP 32-bit

Which is good but it sort of defeats the purpose.  The main advantage of even creating a SmartStation ThinApp was to be able to move to Windows 7 64-bit much quicker and to not have to wait for the slow poke programmers at ThomsonONE to support it (btw, where’s that web version at that you’ve been working on for the past 3+ years).  This eliminates the main advantage of using the product to begin with, at least for us.

Oh But it Get’s Somewhat Worse

Furthermore, even if the application did work on Windows 7 64-bit you still will more than likely have issues.  I found numerous VMware Community posts and it was confirmed by the Support Technician at VMware that you’d still have to capture the application on a Windows 7 64-bit machine in order for it to work.  So you couldn’t capture it on Windows XP 32-bit and then deploy that same ThinApp on Windows 7 64-bit.

SmartStation Specific Issues

Here are a few issues that were discovered during the Pilot Test.

  • With the sandboxes being located on a network share due to the Workspaces issue, functionality within the application is very slow over a T-1 WAN link.  Sure, I could make the sandbox a part of the profile or even set it not to roam.  But, we have a requirement in that Workspaces must be able to be restored in the event of a computer failure.  The only way to do this is to store the entire sandbox on a network share.  Over our gigabit connection to our data center it worked just fine but over our WAN links to our various branch offices it was no good.  Even to the point were some real-time quotes wouldn’t show up.
  • Launching the application on a T-1 WAN link and shutting it down either took a very long time or the application just wouldn’t launch at all.  This has more to do with the underlying network than anything else.

My Decision

So I’ve decided to pull the plug on this project until either ThinApp changes or ThomsonONE makes a ground breaking announcement.  Like I said, it will work fine on Windows XP 32-bit over a gigabit connection but on a newer O/S and/or slower network connection it will not.  Maybe things will change in the coming months.