A Fork in the PC Road

Frank Ohlhorst

CTOs are in the throes of planning their next move for deploying desktop PCs, driven by new operating systems, such as Windows 7, new technologies, such as desktop video conferencing, and a general push towards mobility.

From a 10,000-foot view, the situation in itself does not appear to be a complicated one-CTOs just need to adhere to an ideology of delivering the best, most secure desktop to the user for the least amount of money. Yet, a deeper dive shows it is just not that easy-there seems to be a problem with quantifying what the least amount of money actually is.

Does one look at initial expenses to arrive at that number, or should it be based upon return on investment (ROI), or should total cost of ownership (TCO) be given the edge? What about capital expenditures versus operational expenses, should that be a factor in determining the value of a desktop solution? The list goes on, to include productivity savings or savings realized by operational efficiencies-how do support and deployment costs fit into the picture? What was once a simple task of just putting a PC on every desk has turned into a nightmare of theory and economics, with a dash of political turmoil.

While CTOs struggle to answer many of those questions and derive a plan that keeps end users, CFOs and everyone in-between happy-someone has changed the rules. The new question to be asked is 'what exactly is a business desktop'?-is it a virtual entity that lives in the data center? Is it a physical device connected to a corporate WAN? Is it a mobile device shared by users? CTOs now have to deal with a conceptual change around desktop solutions that has an indeterminate financial value because the variables involved are far from static.

The way I see it, there is no longer a one-size-fits-all desktop deployment and CTOs will have to rely on a technology cocktail that incorporates several technologies to service users. The majority of users will be best served by the many forms of  virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) approach, while power users will need workstation PCs and mobile workers will be serviced by traditional notebook computers. Of course, that may mean the death of the traditional desktop PC in the business realm-unless you count the endpoints running the virtual PCs delivered by VDI.

Is my vision of the future a pipe dream? Will some other solution come to the rescue? Will CTOs rebel and stick to traditional PC deployments? Will management issues prevent the changes needed to build the next generation of desktop deployments? Those are the questions I ponder as we barrel through 2010-what do you think?

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