Do Virtual Desktop Alternatives Exist?

Last Updated:
April 11, 2024

Do Virtual Desktop Alternatives Exist?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is software that separates the desktop environment and its applications from the physical device used to access and run the desktop. VDI desktops run in a corporate data center on centralized servers, which deploy a desktop to an end user when requested. Desktop as a service (DaaS) is also VDI technology, but is hosted in a public or private cloud, with the implementation managed by a third-party provider.

VDI and DaaS make full desktops available to end users. But what if you need a virtual desktop alternative, i.e., technology that makes applications—not desktops—available to end users?

In this post we’ll review the technologies that provide user access to applications, not desktops. Most of these products virtualize applications; some publish or stream applications.

Virtual Desktop Alternative – Virtualized Apps

Parallels® RAS

A VDI hypervisor-independent product delivering centrally hosted Windows® desktops and apps to end users. RAS can be used for virtual app delivery without desktops. RAS can be installed on premises, in a private cloud, or on Microsoft Azure®, Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop, and AWS®.

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops™

A legacy VDI product designed for medium-to-large enterprises that deliver applications or desktops to employees working anywhere. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops can be used in a corporate datacenter or hosted in the cloud. Citrix leverages Microsoft® Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to enable end users to initiate and control an interactive session on a remote computer or virtual machine using a network or internet connection. So, in addition to Citrix licensing, organizations using Citrix must also purchase Windows licenses and RDS-CALs.

For organizations that want to use Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops to self-manage workloads in their corporate data center, Citrix is offering DaaS Advanced Plus as a replacement for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

Remote Desktop Services is one of the components of Windows that allow a user to initiate and control an interactive session on a remote computer or virtual machine over a network connection. RDS lets IT deliver individual virtualized applications and provide end users with the ability to run their applications from the cloud. RDS is Microsoft's implementation of thin client architecture, where Windows software, and the entire desktop of the computer running RDS, are made accessible to any remote client machine that supports Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). 

Microsoft App-V

Provides application virtualization and application streaming capabilities to allow IT to run applications remotely and stream them to end users. Beginning with Windows 10, App-V is included in Windows 10 for Enterprise (version 1607). App-V sandboxes the execution environment for each app so that different versions of the same software can run concurrently, and mutually exclusive applications can safely co-exist on the same user system.


Virtual Desktop Alternative – App Streaming and Publishing

VMware Horizon® Apps

Horizon Apps offers published applications and session-based desktops without VDI. Horizon Apps leverages Microsoft® Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) servers to deliver published applications or desktops and VM-Hosted apps on Horizon 7.9 or later to deliver published applications. Data, applications, and desktops are centrally managed and secured. Users access their published applications and desktops from a single digital workspace, through single sign-on from any authenticated device or OS.

Amazon® AppStream 2.0

A fully managed service which can be configured for application streaming or for delivery of virtual desktops with selective persistence. AppStream lets IT convert desktop applications to SaaS without reconfiguring. AppStream 2.0 is available on AWS® only.


An application publishing solution providing multi-user access to Windows applications from any location, device, and operating system. Unlike most of the remote access products described above that leverage RDS, GO-Global fully replaces the Microsoft functionality including multi-session kernel, Remote Desktop clients, display driver, protocol, internet gateway and management tools. This distinguishing feature allows it to eliminate most of the complexity of other alternatives, while at the same time significantly reducing expenses.

What is the Best Virtual Desktop Alternative?

The technologies listed above—with one exception—utilize Microsoft RDS to enable remote access, adding complexity and incurring extra costs.

The one exception? GO-Global.

GO-Global customers include Windows ISVs that use GO-Global to deliver applications to their customers and organizations using GO-Global to provide their workers with Windows application access —without the cost and technology overhead of other options.

To learn more about GO-Global’s Windows application publishing solution, request a demo here or download a free 30-day trial.

Looking for a VDI Alternative?

See how GO-Global’s application publishing solution delivers Windows Applications