Last month I wrote about Xenocode’s Virtual Application Studio, which lets you package and launch apps in a portable runtime regardless of what’s installed underneath. But if doing business with an unknown company leaves you feeling faklempt, you might kvell over news this week from VMware.

The company best known for its server and operating system virtualization tools has unveiled ThinApp 4.0, the latest version of its application virtualization tool that now allows communications between virtual apps, and can stream byte-level application updates over the Internet. ThinApp 4 is slated to begin shipping on July 10.

Link and Sync
The new capabilities are known as Application Link and Application Sync. App Link allows virtualized Java, .NET, IE and Office applications to intercommunicate and “eliminate conflicts, reduce application size and maintain continuity and tracking of software licenses,” according to a VMware document.

App Sync allows for remote virtualized applications to be updated via HTTP or HTTPS, facilitating management, upgrades and patches to be transmitted to deployed applications, regardless of whether the host machine itself is managed.

Xenocode says VMware is playing catch-up. “Through a feature we call jukeboxing, we allow multiple applications in a single virtualized environment to have access to the same shared resources,” said Xenocode founder and CEO Kenji Obata in a phone interview yesterday. “We also support Microsoft’s SXS.dll,” disputing a claim VMware’s ThinApp 4.0 FAQ (PDF) to be the only vendor to do so. The SxS—or “side-by-side—dll is a manifest logger that applications use to sort out dll usage.

“With ThinApp, customers can decouple applications from the underlying OS,” said Jeff Jennings, VMware’s vice president of desktop products and solutions. Use of the tool, he added, helps lower costs of application packaging, testing and delivery, which together are among the most costly and least secure areas of development. ThinApp was among the assets of Thinstall, which VMware acquired in January. Pricing works out to about US$39 a seat; Xenocode’s pricing goes as low as $20 with volume.