At stake is the market for providing remote access to server-based applications. For customers, this means users can be given thin clients instead of PCs. This can be cost-effective, say analysts, because it removes the need for continuous PC upgrades, is vastly more secure than having PCs at the thin end, and is less susceptible to viruses. Even if fat PCs are used in place of thin clients, the latter two advantages still hold.
Citrix has been performing a delicate balancing act for some years now. Its software sits on top of Microsoft's Windows Terminal Services (WTS), adding features that let PCs and thin clients access server-based Windows applications over a LAN, a broadband connection or even a dial-up connection.
It's a little like the symbiotic relationship that the Egyptian Plover bird enjoys with the crocodile: the bird picks food out of the crocodile's teeth, thereby getting its lunch, while the crocodile refrains from eating the bird, thereby getting its teeth cleaned. It's a slightly uneasy arrangement that works only so long as the bird doesn't find easier pickings elsewhere, and the crocodile doesn't learn how to use dental floss.
MetaFrame is Citrix's bread and butter; the company depends on it absolutely for survival. Microsoft has plucked a few Citrix feathers in the past, but has refrained from swallowing it wholesale; after all, every buyer of Citrix MetFrame still needs to buy Microsoft client licences -- so if Citrix can boost the number of Windows seats, it is doing Microsoft a favour.