Software and computing have become more sophisticated and intrinsic to all elements of working, studying, and learning over time. So too has the importance and complexity of providing access to this software. With the numbers of students, software titles, and devices modern university IT deals with, standard/legacy delivery technologies no longer suffice.

Students expect consistent access to their course software and the experience they get in this domain heavily factors into their choice of university and will influence their opinion their student experience. Both of these things are extremely impactful to university reputations and revenue. With this in mind, it is imperative to make software as accessible as possible with a smooth and easy experience.

Imaging products, such as Microsoft's SCCM have historically provided the solution to the problem, but even these technologies have been outgrown, and are no longer appropriate for or even capable of delivering every piece of software to every delivery context. The two industry-standard technologies that offer a solution to this are application virtualization and VDI (desktop virtualization).

What is VDI and how does it work?

VDI is the idea of creating a virtual machine (VM), executing software titles on the VM, and pixel-streaming to the end device.

There are many variables and intricacies to how this technology works. For example, some technologies will allow students to save settings/preferences and use the same virtual machine every time. This is known as persistent VDI, is one of the more expensive forms of VDI and, by all accounts, is more appropriate for commercial enterprises with lower numbers of users and higher budgets per user. Some VDI technologies are opposed to this in that they allow multiple users to access the same virtual machine to run the software they require. Windows Virtual Desktop falls into this category, which is part of what makes it such an effective solution for higher education; it is affordable, efficient, and highly scalable with all the base benefits of traditional VDI.

Read more about VDI in 'The ultimate guide to VDI', by AppsAnywhere >

AppsAnywhere vs Windows Virtual Desktop overview

AppsAnywhere Windows Virtual Desktop
Deliver 100% Windows apps? Yes Yes
Deliver Mac applications? Yes No
Deliver cross-platform? Yes, with integrations Yes
Deliver to zero/ultrathin clients? Yes, with integrations Yes
Can leverage end-device hardware? Yes No
Offline delivery? Yes No
Cost per-user? Very low Medium/high
Scalability High Medium-low
Performance with graphics-intensive apps? Very good Limited by network and Azure
Available fully-hosted? No Yes
Available on-premise? Yes No
Analytics/reporting engine? Yes Basic

Front-end portal?

Yes Basic

Further info

AppsAnywhere and Windows Virtual Desktop are different delivery technologies, and so are not wholly comparable on a feature-for-feature basis. the below information will expand upon table entries.

Delivery 100% of Windows Apps: Both AppsAnywhere and Windows Virtual Desktop are capable of delivering 100% of Windows applications. AppsAnywhere because of its unparalleled application virtualization technology, allowing any Windows app to be packaged and virtualized. Windows Virtual Desktop because it leverages DesktopOS, avoiding the difficulties experienced by all over VDI technologies due to their using ServerOS.

Deliver Mac apps: AppsAnywhere can deliver Mac applications to Macs. Windows Virtual Desktop cannot deliver any Mac applications.

Deliver cross-platform: AppsAnywhere integrates with all leading delivery technologies. Through leveraging these integrations, AppsAnywhere is capable of delivering cross-platform. Windows Virtual Desktop, being a VDI technology, pixel-streams application information to end-devices. As long as the end-device can display this pixel data, it can be an endpoint for WVD delivered apps.

Deliver to zero/ultrathin clients: Once again, AppsAnywhere can deliver to zero/ultrathin clients through leveraging integrations and so can WVD due to the nature of VDI as a technology.

Can leverage end-device hardware: AppsAnywhere is able to leverage the hardware capabilities of end-devices to save on usage of server-based computing power and offload some of the work to students' often powerful personal machines. Windows Virtual Desktop is not able to make use of end-device hardware when delivering software due to the nature of VDI and pixel-streaming.

Offline delivery: With AppsAnywhere, once an application is virtualized, launched and delivered, it can continue to be used without a network connection, whereas Windows Virtual Desktop requires a constant network connection.

Cost-per-user: AppsAnywhere boasts a very low cost-per-user With its smart provisioning, contextual delivery, and its ability to offer insight into how delivery technologies are used, AppsAnywhere usually reduces delivery costs in comparison to delivery estates not using it. Windows Virtual Desktop is low-cost in comparison to other VDI solutions as it is able to avoid many of the 'hidden costs of VDI'. that being said, VDI is a supremely expensive technology, and even inexpensive VDI can cost many orders of magnitude more than alternative delivery technologies.

Scalability: AppsAnywhere is highly scalable due to its agile approach to delivery (Smart provisioning and ability to fine-tune which delivery methods are used in each context) and also due to the insight provided by AppsAnywhere Analytics. Windows Virtual Desktop is highly scalable by the standard of VDI solutions, however, it would be prohibitively expensive to attempt to deliver all software titles using WVD, making other delivery technologies necessary.

Performance with graphics-intensive apps: AppsAnywhere's versatility permits IT admins to leverage the most appropriate technology for delivery depending on the demand of each individual application. Windows Virtual Desktop will perform well with graphics-intensive applications providing there as a solid and strong network connection. If the network is spotty or unreliable then performance is compromised. Even with the most solid network connection, however, graphics-intensive applications have the potential to drive usage costs very high.

Available fully hosted: AppsAnywhere is a customer-managed solution and can be deployed on-premise or on the cloud platform of their choosing, just as many of its integrations can be. Windows Virtual Desktop is a fully-hosted solution.

Available on-premise: AppsAnywhere is an on-premise solution. Windows Virtual Desktop is not available on-premise.

Analytics/reporting engine: AppsAnywhere Analytics provides insight into usage data on a number of key metrics to help inform provisioning decisions and reduce costs across the board in software delivery. Windows Virtual Desktop is able to provide various data points through Azure Log Analytics, through this information is mainly for diagnostics and focuses on data usage.

Front-end portal: AppsAnywhere provides a consistent and simple-to-use front-end interface for every single app it delivers; to the end-user, the experience never changes whether you're delivering cross-platform, Windows apps or Mac apps, etc. Windows Virtual Desktop features a basic front end with a consistent experience throughout Windows apps, however, users will have to use an entirely different tool for delivery of non-Windows apps.

Key capabilities

Windows Virtual Desktop solves a number of challenges introduced by other VDI solutions and benefits greatly from being a Microsoft product. 

Free to implement

Due to being fully-hosted, Windows Virtual Desktop is free to implement and universities pay based on usage. The means that barrier to entry is supremely low and universities only pay for what they use. The only prerequisite for access is that universities must use Azure in order to have access to WVD.

Many 'hidden VDI costs' are absorbed

CALs and VDA licenses are absorbed into the cost of Windows Virtual Desktop, and so they will not crop up as unexpected costs during implementation. Due to WVD being a fully hosted solution, expensive VDI server infrastructure and specialist staff are not necessary.

Windows 10/7 multi-session

As it is also a Microsoft product, Windows Virtual Desktop is the only VDI solution capable of offering Windows 10 and Windows 7 multi-session, helping keep usage costs down and allowing multiple users to access the same desktop to access their apps. This is a great benefit when compared with other solutions whose model is to charge for VDI licenses, each of which can only be used by one student at any given time.


Windows Virtual Desktops is exempt from a number of the limitations that other VDI solutions suffer from. However, it does still have its drawbacks due to different elements of its design and the nature of desktop virtualization. So what are these limitations and how can AppsAnywhere step in to fill the gaps and solve these problems?

Can only deliver Windows apps

Windows Virtual Desktop cannot, and likely never will be able to deliver Mac apps to Macs. This causes issue for university courses where this may be necessary and renders WVD useless as a delivery technology in these situations. AppsAnywhere can remedy this by working alongside Windows Virtual Desktop and leveraging technologies such as Jamf Pro in order to deliver Mac apps to Macs.

Can't make use of end-devices' hardware capabilities

When it comes to BYOD in higher education, student-owned devices are like an 'untapped resource'; a fresh pool of delivery computing power. Windows Virtual Desktop can unfortunately not access or make use of this computing power in any way. AppsAnywhere's application virtualization technology provides a method of utilizing this power to deliver software to applicable delivery contexts, helping to reduce university data usage and VDI spend. This can also often result in a greater user-experience for the students.

Isn't capable of offline delivery

Windows Virtual Desktop requires a constant and reliable network connection to deliver applications. As applications are pixel-streamed to end devices, any disruption to or inefficiencies in the network connection will result in application use being interrupted. This will always be an issue for certain delivery contexts. However, AppsAnywhere's application virtualization technology can solve this by allowing users to virtualize and run an app online, and then continue to use this app if they are disconnected or needs to work in an area with no/low network coverage.

Cost-per-user and scalability still leave a lot to be desired

As previously mentioned, WVD is still a VDI technology meaning that, at a great scale, the costs can become astronomically high. It is more scalable than other VDI solutions but it will never be appropriate for universal use across a university. Through context detection and smart prioritization, AppsAnywhere provides a method for universities to use expensive VDI solutions, such as WVD, only where necessary and use more appropriate technologies where possible, saving money. AppsAnywhere Analytics also provides tools that allow higher education IT to gain insight into delivery technology usage and further refine/improve their use of VDI in the interest of saving money and improving students' user experiences.

Some problems introduced by graphics-intensive apps

Due to WVD pixel-streaming visual data to end devices, subpar connection speeds combined with high graphical data loads can drive costs higher and negatively impact the student experience. In a similar vein to the previous point, AppsAnywhere allows IT to identify these situations and select a more appropriate technology to use for delivery.

Only available fully-hosted

One of the benefits of legacy/traditional, on-premise VDI is that applications are technically run and executed on-site, no matter where they're delivered to with only the pixel data leaving campus. This has historically helped circumvent tricky license agreements stipulating that their respective software titles may not be run offsite. As Windows Virtual Desktop is only available fully-hosted, it can not boast this feature. Furthermore, universities/departments specifically require data to remain on-premise, then Windows Virtual Desktop will not be applicable in this situation.


As previously covered, Windows Virtual Desktop is able to reduce and absorb many of the hidden costs of VDI, opting for a usage-based model instead. 

CALs/VDA licenses

Windows Virtual Desktop partially absorbs these costs (can be fully absorbed dependent on the level of contract with Microsoft). WVD is the only VDI solution capable of truly reducing these costs, rather than just rolling them into the total costs which is then proportionally higher. However, neither of these licenses factor into the cost of AppsAnywhere itself as it is not a VDI solution, rather it can integrate with all leading VDI technology.


With very low upfront costs, Windows Virtual Desktops presents a low barrier-to-entry for universities, whether they're looking to simply trial the technology or implement it fully. With that said, the cost of Windows Virtual Desktop does go up with usage, so measures will be necessary to keep these costs under control through some intelligent provisioning and disciplined use of VDI as a technology. While AppsAnywhere does involve upfront costs on a license-based model, its cost does not go up with usage over time, providing a reliable technology to use in the majority of contexts which can then integrate with VDI technologies such as Windows Virtual Desktop where necessary.

Potential for cost savings elsewhere

If replacing a legacy VDI solution with Windows Virtual Desktop, then it will almost certainly result in lower costs, based on like-for-like usage. However, a key area in which most universities could save money is the reduction of VDI. As WVD is itself a VDI technology, keeping its usage at a minimum is beneficial, especially given this particular solution's cost is usage-based. AppsAnywhere, through its provisioning tools, context detection, and reporting engine, Analytics can deliver insight into how software is delivered and needs to be delivered, as well as setting automated provisioning logic to ensure students are accessing their software in the most appropriate and cost-effective way possible.

How much does Windows Virtual Desktop cost?

Microsoft pricing for 1,000 concurrent users = $154,296 USD per year (Assumes pay-as-you-go cost model). Take a look at the official Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop cost calculator below to get an idea of what it may cost to implement in your university.

WVD cost calculator


With Windows Virtual Desktop being hosted in Microsoft's Azure servers, universities can rest assured that their data is as secure as can be; even in the unlikely event of a data breach or compromise in security, Microsoft is in a position to identify and address it quickly. Any potential risk to data comes simply because of the nature of VDI and will most likely originate from the end-point. VDI is often used to deliver software to BYO devices. University IT does not manage these devices and can't be certain that they're safe from malware. However, the greater issue comes when these devices or off-site and using non-secure networks to connect to university resources. VPNs are necessary to ensure data transfer to off-site locations is kept secure. 

AppsAnywhere provides the same level of security, with further security products/features only required for where endpoints may be infected with malware or where non-secure networks may be used to access university data and software.

Continuity of education

It is evident that Windows Virtual Desktop possesses many significant strengths and offers improvements on and solutions to some of VDI's most glaring weaknesses. It is a VDI solution much more suited to higher education than legacy VDi solutions, such as Citrix's and VMware's offerings. When it comes to implementing a VDI technology, we can wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse Windows Virtual Desktop. However, our stance on VDI remains the same; while it is an impressively capable technology, it is important not to 'carry all your eggs in one basket', and in many delivery contexts there may be a technology more suited to the situation than VDI.

AppsAnywhere is designed to help IT identify contexts and provision using whichever technology is most appropriate, to integrate with all of your delivery technologies, and to provide the best higher education application virtualization technology on the market. We strongly advise using application virtualization as your workhorse and go-to technology in order to deliver software with the best user experience for students and the best cost-per-user of higher ed IT. Imaging should be reserved for essential applications on managed machines and for labs which must be specialist. VDi should be used only where absolutely necessary to keep costs at a minimum and traditional access methods should be users everywhere possible; for example, for FOSS apps, always provide a download link.

Conclusion and recommendation

Some useful & related reading..

The ultimate guide to VDI

The ultimate guide to VDI

VDI was one of the standout technologies of the last decade. But 10 years on has it delivered on its promises? We look at the benefits, disadvantages and alternatives to VDI

The ultimate guide to application virtualization

The ultimate guide to application virtualization

Application virtualization is a technology that virtualizes apps that are encapsulated from the OS they are to be run on. Learn everything there is to know about application virtualization including how it works, comparisons with VDI, the benefits and different solutions on the market.