So, to follow up on my previously post on the HP X3, I wanted to share my views on something rather interesting with this device. It acctually comes bundled with a service called HP Workspace. (Or at least for 60 days).
HP Workspace is basically a service that virtualize your applications and publish them to your HP X3, and voila – you have all the apps you need. It sounds good in theory, but how good is it and how does it compare for example solutions from Citrix, VMware and Microsoft?
First of all – pricing. As I said the first 60 days are free. After that you can either go for the Essential or Premium plan.
The differentiators are more RAM for your virtual machine, number of apps and reporting. The prices (according to Engadget ) start at $49 for Essential and $79 for Premium. Which could sound pricy, but for a dedicated VDI its probably fair – for small businesses at least. It will be interesting to see how Citix Xendesktop/Xenapp Essentials compare to that when they are released.
So, moving on. As I said, the first 60 days are free and you sign up at the HP Workspace homepage, using the Submit Request button . The sign-up is pretty straight forward – but you need to enter your X3 serial number. This is easier said than done. In the guide, it states that it should be on the back for the phone, near the bottom and in the middle. And it is. But its very, very tiny and in bad contrast, so its easy to miss.
You enter your information, submit it, and a few hours later you should receive a license key.
Now, you go back to the sign-up page, but this time you press sign-up in the upper right corner. You then go trough a guide were you enter your license key and then you are eligible for a five user environment for 60 days. You are also asked to upload and install apps – which I’ll get back to.
Note, its actually possible to integrate the service with an Azure Active Directory which I like. You can either just use it to log on users, they don’t even have to be in your AAD. You could also do a synchronization from your Azure AD to populate your workspace with users.
So, what happens next is that you get logged into the web-based portal and can start managing your service. At the Home-page you get an experience not unlike the Intune portal.
You can see that status of your apps, launch them, see users and licenses and also contact support. Its really quiet straigth forward.
On your left hand side you have a menu with links to different parts of the service:
They are mostly self-explanatory:
- My App Library
- Upload, delete and managed applications
- User Management
- Manage, create, delete or import users from CSV or Azure AD. You can also assign users administrative privileges.
- Support request, with status indicator.
- The rest of the available settings, basically where you fill in your company information and add licenses.
- How to reach support. You actually get both call-back support, chat and a “community forum” to help you. Note, the last one is VERY limited.
So, the support is limited – but most things you do is really easy to understand. So ill only go into apps in more detail.
I’m not yet had time to evaluate all options you may have here, ill continue to do so moving forward. What I can say is this: If you have worked with Intune Cloud-only before, you know what to expect. It seems like its single file installations only. Its intelligent enough to know how to handle an MSI, but need help with other file types.
You point to a file, it uploads (you get 25 GB of storage – which should be enough for most users), you enter some information and then it installs. Btw, the upload speeds are… slow… and without any kind of feedback on the progress.
I’ve tried a few installations, and MSIs works fine. I’m having some issues with .exe files, but the feedback you get from the site is basically none. I believe HP have made the, perhaps common, mistake. To create something that is so easy to use that it gets hard to use when things doesn’t work.
By default, and the only option, is to publish everything to everyone. I would like to be able to choose who gets a specific application – but this is for small businesses, so in most cases I guess this would be enough. It could however prove difficult for applications that have a per-user license.
If everything goes according to plan, you should be able to see the installed applications, or whatever stage they are in, in the “My Apps section”.
The End User Experience
So, what about the end user? First of all, this service is something you should (and have to use) with Continuum. The app don’t even work without connecting the phone to either the docking-station or the lap-dock. Once you are connected, you are able to open the app and log on.
You are greeted by your windows apps, by default File Explorer and Internet Explorer 11 – I’ve added Google Chrome and Cisco Spark in this case.
Under “Files” at the top you are able to integrate cloud-storage services from Dropbox, Google Drive and Box (in beta). Onedrive is reachable from the app itself and integrates with your phone. I’ll be completely honest and say that I haven’t tried this feature, cause I do not use any of these service, only Onedrive. But I guess it will work as expected and show up in the File Explorer like a mapped network drive.
You very soon realize that this isnt a Windows 10 VDI you have ended up in.. I havent gone deep enough to say exactly what it is, but it looks like Windows 8.1 or perhaps even Windows 7. It could of course also be the eqvivalent in Windows Server version.
You are able to start more than one application at once, and it acctually works well enough. I’m surprised by the service to be honest, but I had very low expectations. I also belive its easy enough for a regular end-user to learn.
There are however, some very important limitations to take into consideration:
- You are in this version limited to 8 hours of usage per session.
- You seem to be limited to 80 hours of usage per user and month.
- When you close or disconnect – your session will end in 10 minutes and whatever you were doing will be lost, if you don’t save it of course.
- Occasionally you have to wait for an app to start. HP is obviously not letting your machine be turned on and use resources when you are not using it.
- At the moment, it looks like you are only able to US as the input language.
On the good side – you are acctually ending up in one of HPs european datacenters if you are a EU based company. This is evaluated for each user during logon – based on (I guess) where my company is based. This, at least, is a good feature.
And, performance does seem to be enough. I for example tried to have a video-conf over Cisco Spark. And it actually worked very well. Its not instant, but it was a good enough experience with video and sound.
I obviously need some more time to evaluate the service, but all in all:
If you are used to any kind of Enterprise ready solution from Citrix, VMware or Microsoft – you will be disappointed. Its not at all as good, flexible, modern, robust, usable or powerful. But, its very user friendly. Both for the end-users and also for the novice administrator. Its easy to get going, and as long as you don’t have to high demands you will be just fine. And remember, HP bundles (or at least as a start) this service with the X3 for a reason. We don’t yet have all the apps we need in the Store or Continuum enabled. Workspace should be a complement, and it does exactly that. I’m at the moment testing how a full version of Office would work, and that would solve many of my issues.
Yes, the service lacks some important features and you could probably set up a better solution for the same amount of money as you would pay for the service if you were a smaller firm. But a small firm with 1-10 users would never do that.
So, to sum things up. I’m considering to use it, just to prove a point and show how good a Continuum-enabled phone could be. But I would never use this as a replacement for any Enterprise-grade virtualization solution. There’s much more to say, but ill update this post with my finding later on.
Until then – have you tried Workspace? Would you consider it?