Companies Review The Role of the Desktop In The Future of The Business

A recent Computer Weekly article highlighted the fact that many businesses may soon be reviewing how they use the desktop PC in the business and whether or not they need it in any significant way going forward.

The office desktop used to be a self contained computer used for running local applications and possibly saving the data created on a shared platform, but this role is looking less likely in the future. 

The signs are now that organisations will concentrate more on what they want from their end to end-to-end IT platform which could mean that if anything the good old workhorse desktop PC will end up being more like a simple access device.

How and Why the Change?

The role of the desktop has found itself under review for a number of reasons including that:

  • We are now opting more for the convenience, and there is a lower perceived risk of the continuous delivery version of Windows 10 where after we’ve got the free upgrade the latest functionality is added regularly at the same time as patches are downloaded.
  • Individuals and companies still using Windows XP are facing expensive support as the OS reaches the end of its life.  This also means security concerns and having to use a browser that isn’t up to date.
  •  Individuals and companies still using Windows 7 or 8 are reviewing whether the licence cost and the upgrade and training costs of the move to Windows 10 are worth it.
  •  Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programmes have come into broader use e.g. Apple iPads and Google Android tablets, both of which don’t run Windows applications natively. This means less use of Windows based desktops. 
  • When Microsoft changed the way applications were run 30% of applications written for XP did not run directly on later Operating Systems and later Vista applications are now over 10 years old.
  • The increasing use of software as a service has meant that workloads are run on servers elsewhere and not on the desktop, so desktop performance is no longer the main issue.  Indeed Intel is now focusing less on how fast desktop computers are for this reason.
  • The wide scale use of mobile Apple and Android devices as part of everyday business means that having a desktop for business applications doesn’t make much practical sense.

Where The Desktop Fits in the Future

The future is not all non Windows, non desktop.  It should be said at point that Windows 10 is already running on 10 million devices. If you decide to migrate to Windows 10 you can expect help with that from suppliers like as Dell, HP and Lenovo.

For example, they can provide the means to run old applications on the new platform or to run a virtualised environment on top of Windows 10 for certain applications.

Concentrating all desktops in a central datacentre and using a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is another option. You can use discovery tools e.g. by RES Software and Centrix Software to see who is using what before migration, to make the desktop roll out more manageable and to understand what desktop systems would be best for what groups of people. 

VDI can allow users to access their Windows based desktop from their non Windows tablets or smart phones, although there can be some performance issues.

As mentioned earlier Intel’s move away from focusing on speed is likely to see a focus on multi-factor authentication security e.g. utilizing fingerprint scanning, iris scanning or biometrics.  This will mean less of a reliance on usernames or passwords, thus meaning that companies won’t need large numbers of agents on helpdesks helping people to re-set their passwords. For Intel this could therefore be a way to motivate companies to refresh their desktops.

Less of a Workhorse and More of an Access Device

All of this means that before licensing and rolling out an updated operating system organisations are more likely to be revising their IT estate.  Companies are now more likely to be looking to the rapidly changing future, focusing more on what they need to achieve with their IT and considering multiple means to achieve that.

Desktops are now moving away from the role of running enterprise applications to the role of being access devices that allow mixing and matching of Windows, non-Windows and cloud-based apps and functionality through their browsers or thin clients.