Windows Server 2008 introduced a series of programs called RemoteApp that appear as if they are running on a local computer, even though they are accessed remotely. With Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, these programs can be grouped along with entire virtual desktop sessions, and both can appear in the local Start menu of your desktops. It is a pretty neat trick.
The result is that it’s easier for IT administrators to deploy and maintain remote apps. You can make changes to the apps in one place and the changes are transmitted to the various end-user desktops that are allowed to see them. RemoteApp also makes managing software licenses more cost effective, since you can have tighter control over who uses what software programs when. Finally, it makes it a more natural experience for end users; they can use the Windows search to find these remote apps, and they don’t have to do anything different to launch them compared to their locally-installed apps that are on their desktops.
RemoteApp isn’t unique: Citrix has been selling something similar for years. What is unique, though, is RemoteApp’s level of integration with the underlying Windows 7 OS, and how it can offer something similar for relatively low cost, too. (We’ll get to the licensing issues in a moment.)
To pull this off, you first need to update your Windows 2008 Server to the R2 version, which really means doing a re-install of a new server OS. Then you need to add some additional Microsoft software to your R2 Server, which will look like the following when you have everything set up.