So, as a proof of concept, a few months ago I setup a lab with the following ingredients:
- A Windows Server 2008 AD domain controller
- A Windows Server 2008 App-V / File server
- A Windows 7 client
- App-V packages for Office 2007, Paint.NET, FireFox
- Group Policy Preferences: Drive Mappings, Desktop Shortcuts (to the server-based App-V shortcuts)
Take a new computer, load it with Windows 7, join it to the domain. Reboot it. When the first user logs on they have all their drive mappings and shortcuts to the applications (the shortcuts appear as if they're already installed). When they double-click a shortcut, the App-V client briefly says it's caching the package and then it launches like a normal installed application. After that, it essentially *is* a normal installed application (after being cached once).
Add to this MDT and SCCM with OSD and you can absolutely have "zero-touch" deployments. Yes Virginia: It is possible.
This is obviously a basic setup and wouldn't work in a business environment without some adjustments and tweaking. But with Group Policy Preferences and Item Level Targeting, you can tailor policy settings to specific groups or computers with minimal effort. It can also help to determine which applications should be in the layer "0" image (WIM+sequence), and which should be in layers "1" and higher, and let Group Policy and App-V handle those. Keep in mind that applications which are managed by their own concurrent licensing service (think FlexLM and FlexNet Manager) can be deployed in layer "0" using a sequence and you can avoid pushing 10 Gb packages over the network (think Autodesk 3DS Max, Civil 3D or Inventor).
To me, this is where Microsoft shines, and they rarely get credit from mass media for how much they've accomplished at such a relatively low cost. If we were still on IBM and DEC technology it would cost millions of dollars to do this. Microsoft made it possible to do this for even the largest companies for basically chump change.