The PC is dead. The PC is not dead. The PC is sort of dead, but that’s OK because the new client devices are much cooler.
By now, just about every theory on the PC’s future in the enterprise has been thoroughly consumed and digested by the technorati. And while the term “dead” gets thrown around a lot, it is clear that although the PC is no longer the primary means of data access in the enterprise, neither is it headed for the scrap heap.
A more likely scenario is that the PC will change in both form and function as the enterprise heads into the cloudy, mobility-drive future. The key question, then, is how.
PC World’s Mark Hachman offered up a number of intriguing possibilities, most of which involve miniaturization and modularity as a means to lower costs and improve flexibility. Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC), for instance, is expected to pack key computing components into a form-factor about the size of a Rubik’s Cube, while Lenovo’s Flex-20 all-in-one features a touch-based interface and is expected to combine the features of a laptop and smart TV.
How useful will these types of devices be in the enterprise? That depends on what sort of applications emerge as the new productivity drivers. Google’s new Chromebox for Meetings, for example, is tailor-made for videoconferencing, which the company relies on heavily for its own knowledge workforce. The device uses the Chrome OS, naturally, plus a mic, HD camera and other components needed to push live video streaming out of the boardroom and into the workspace so face-to-face chatting can take on a much more informal air in the enterprise.
Of course, with the advent of desktop virtualization, the actual client hardware is becoming less important. Although the technology never had its watershed moment as many tech observers expected, it nonetheless continues to encroach on standard desktop infrastructure as a facet of the new cloud-based, software-defined data ecosystem. Citrix, for instance, recently added a number of cloud-friendly features to the XenDesktop platform, including closer ties to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the CloudStack protocol to simplify the provisioning process in the public, private and hybrid clouds.
In short, then, the enterprise doesn’t need to worry about adapting to a “post-PC” universe, but it does need to recalculate its infrastructure design and development strategies for a multi-client workforce. According to Tata Communications’ Nirav Shah, this is equivalent to the discovery of pi and other numerical concepts that led to new levels of innovation and scientific progress. Job One, then, would be a shift in budget allocation, which even today is vastly weighted toward traditional desktop infrastructure models.
In the end, the only thing “dead” about the desktop is the idea that it must consist of a rectangular box, detached monitor and associated user interface devices like a mouse and keyboard. Many platforms have already shed this stereotype and are finding new ways in which desktop computing can be configured and ultimately brought to bear on the challenges facing knowledge workers.
In this new paradigm, mobility and flexibility are paramount, but old school still has a role to play.