Citrix has revealed that is looking to cut the cost of desktop virtualisation and improve the user experience, with the latest version of its XenDesktop platform.

In XenDesktop 3, Citrix is introducing a new way to deliver desktops. Using the Desktop Streaming feature, companies will be able to stream the bits needed to execute the operating system from a server to the endpoint over their LAN.

So, for example, power users can take advantage of the processing power on the desktop, but the IT department can still manage everything centrally in the data centre, according to Calvin Hsu, director of product marketing at Citrix.

"This works best if you either have a fairly high-powered thin client or a number of standardised PCs at the endpoint," he said.

When using Desktop Streaming, companies should aim for as little hardware differentiation as possible, because when you stream the desktop image it actually has driver information and hardware configuration information in it, according to Hsu.

"Fewer variables means more users can leverage a single image of that desktop," said Hsu.

The setup also means that you need fewer servers in the data centre, because the desktop is executed on the endpoint and not on the server.

Desktop Streaming will be part of the Advanced, Enterprise and Platinum Editions of XenDesktop 3, which will start shipping by the end of February.

The three versions cost US$195 (£135), $295 (£204) and $395 (£273) per concurrent user, respectively. There will be two versions without Desktop Streaming: Standard, at $75 per concurrent user, and Express, which is free.

In XenDesktop 3 Citrix has also improved the single-server scalability for companies that still want to execute desktops on the server. Citrix can now run twice as many virtual desktops on each server. "You can run 50 to 55 desktops per single server, using a dual quad-core type of configuration," said Hsu.

On the administration side Citrix has integrated profile management, using technology it acquired from Sepago last year. Portable Profile Manager can be used to build desktops that feel personal to the user, but are based on standardised components.

"It makes the personalisation more reliable and streamlines the profile itself," said Hsu.

In a bid to further widen the number of users that can use desktop virtualisation, Citrix is also adding multimedia capabilities to XenDesktop. Rather than rendering the multimedia, the server pushes the compressed data stream to the endpoint and then the endpoint renders it, according to Hsu.

"Most thin clients today will have media players built in to it, but effectively you just need the proper codec on the endpoint," he said.

Improving the user experience is key if desktop virtualisation is to take off. "There is very little chance of virtual desktops going mainstream, and being adopted in a broad way, unless you have that user experience right," said Hsu.