Is there any real need for application virtualization?

Despite its huge potential, it’s pretty evident that the market is not embracing the application virtualization approach (to not be confused with presentation or desktop virtualization) anytime soon.

All the biggest vendors in the IT industry invested in application virtualization: Microsoft acquired Softricity in May 2006, VMware acquired Thinstall in January 2008, Symantec acquired Altiris in January 2007 and AppStream in April 2008, Novell distributes XenoCode with an OEM agreement since September 2008, and Citrix has its own engine as part of XenApp since a long time.

Regardless of this massive commitment, the top players above spent almost zero effort to push for application virtualization adoption.
The startups that were not acquired in the last three years are struggling to make any impact. See AppZero (formerly Trigence), Ceedo or Trustware.

Microsoft, which owns a large part of the application ecosystem, and can deeply influence the rest of it, doesn’t seem to have any interest in winning the race, even if it owns what was considered one of the best application virtualization engine in 2006: SoftGrid (now App-V).
This year we are going to see a virtualized and stream version of Office 2010, which is good start but nowhere near the kind of effort required to facilitate a mass adoption.

Or the industry is still too busy pushing for the adoption of hardware virtualization and its related applications (VDI, IaaS cloud computing), or the application virtualization technology is not mature enough to be useful outside specific niches, or simply there’s no need for application virtualization, and all the companies above just went deadly wrong with their investments.

On top of these options there’s another one: customers are looking for alternatives to application virtualization that are perceived as more flexible.
One of them may be the so-called offline VDI, powered by client hypervisors that expected later this year.