In another era, the formal release of Windows 7 would generate the normal amount of debate over when is the right time to upgrade. But as we get ready to approach 2010, the number of desktop choices confronting chief technologists has never been more varied.
Instead of just weighing the merits of Windows 7 versus Windows XP and whether to deliver applications locally or through one of two terminal services options, companies today have to first elect what type of Windows client they want, from an ultra thin netbook all the way up to a full-configured Windows PC. This, of course, assumes they want a Windows PC in the first place, as the number of corporations opting to add support for Apple Macintosh or Linux desktop system seems to be gaining with each passing year. And just to make things more interesting, many organizations have moved to adopt virtual machines on the desktop so users can run multiple operating systems on the same PC.
After those choices are made, customers then must weigh their options when it comes to desktop virtualization. Besides using traditional terminal services, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) approaches that rely on virtual machines running on the server have become a viable alternative. And within the context of a VDI, thin clients are now seen as being more viable than ever because they can be configured to run as the equivalent of lightweight PCs or as pure terminals with no local processor or software as is the case with Pano Logic.
When it comes to all this diversity on the desktop, it's increasingly looking like chief technologists are going to have to reconcile themselves to it. The days when one corporate desktop standard could be reliably enforced appear to be behind us forever. Of course, there are still large numbers of IT organizations trying to hold on to the corporate standard dream, but increasingly organizations are retreating to the server to create and enforce standards. Rather than require everybody in the organization to have the same client, IT organizations have begun to discover they can have their cake and eat it too by leveraging some form of desktop virtualization to give users a greater range of desktop choices, while also lowering the real cost of supporting the overall PC environment. They can even allow users to personalize their applications within a VDI deployment scenario, or even decide to allow end users to bring their own PCs to work.
We're on the verge of a new era where the characteristics of the applications we're trying to run, rather than a corporate mandate, will determine what type of desktop computing environment will be deployed. As the song goes, the times are definitely a changing. But if IT organizations are smart about it, the times may a changing for the better for everybody.