Rethinking PC Ownership in the Enterprise

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With the pending arrival of Windows 7 and the fact that so many companies observe today as the start of a new fiscal year today, it might be worth considering how the concept of PC ownership is evolving in the enterprise.

Corporations today spend a fortune buying PCs for their end users. But with laptops and desktop prices falling below $500, what if end users could buy their own PCs instead? At first blush, this may sound like an invitation to systems management chaos. But with the advent of virtualization on the desktop, what was once considered insane is becoming increasing practical.

One of the things that an IT organization can opt to do with virtualization is partition an end user's machine. One part of the machine would essentially be a locked-down virtual PC that could only run applications approved by the IT department. The rest of the PC could then be left open to run a separate operating environment that the end user could use to surf the Web, play music or load up their favorite game.

Of course, if the end user is using the machine for their personal use, the question of who should pay for the machine arises. Most working people, especially knowledge workers, have two laptops these days. One machine is the one the company gave them, while the other is typically their own more powerful machine. Many of them would welcome the chance to replace both machines with a single more powerful system that they could use for work and play. And because they would be using the more powerful machine for work, they theoretically could write the purchase of that machine off as a non-reimbursed business expense.

Virtualization creates an interesting opportunity to rethink the economics of PC purchasing in the enterprise in a way that could actually give IT organizations more control over a secure virtual PC than anything they have in place today. In fact, more than a few corporations have already started down this path, but there are still a number of issues.


Of course, many companies could set up the same level of partitioning on machines they could still choose to buy. But with so many end users already shelling out money to buy their own notebooks, it seems like a wasted opportunity to save money for both the corporation and, thanks to a tax break, the end user as well.