The lines between work and personal entertainment have blurred as the devices we use for work and pleasure begin to co-mingle. We can thank the combination of affordable laptop computers, the rise of the smartphone, the move away from proprietary to IP-based networks, and broadband to the home for driving our work and home computing environments onto a collision course. Laptop computers take the work computer out of the office and into the home. Broadband to the home means reasonable access speeds back to the work datacenter. The transition to IP-based computing makes internal applications accessible over the Internet from our home computers. Smartphones make it possible to access our work email while out of the office. Devices are now playing dual roles as both personal and work productivity solutions. This has introduced new devices into the mix outside the periphery of IT control. Many users like myself, do more than just BYOD we actually own our device it is our Device of Choice (DoC), because we purchased and own the equipment. Consequently, the IT department finds themselves supporting new devices that perhaps were not corporate issue and it has reintroduced Apple devices back into the workplace.
Macs are Back
By the mid 90’s Apple devices had all but disappeared from the workplace outside of education and design departments. Windows and subsequently Office won the battle of the enterprise desktop. Support for porting applications to the Macintosh platform dwindled as ISVs looked to focus on Windows deployments and address a growing interest in Linux. Support for Office on the Mac has long been a bone of contention for Macintosh users with releases out of synch with Windows versions; missing features, odd hiccups, and the list of complaints go on. However, the good news is that as more and more applications become web-based the underlying OS becomes less relevant. Good news for Macintosh users. For now, most corporate IT departments have found it simpler to just create dual boot systems with Windows and Macintosh OSes running side-by-side. This of course creates more of an administrative burden.
IT departments cannot stick their head in the sand and ignore the fact that corporate data is being accessed from multiple devices – some outside the domain of corporate IT. Locking down the network and not providing any access to unauthorized devices is not practical. Also, today’s end users are computer savvy and will either find a workaround or wear you down. Instead a different approach is needed. If you cannot control the device, what about controlling the content? If the data never resides on the device, then it the device becomes less of an issue. The answer is desktop virtualization. To that end, I think it is very possible that if IT takes a more aggressive approach to solving this problem, it will ultimately drive the adoption of virtualized desktops. Virtualized desktops can be centrally managed easing the administrative burden. Corporate data that remains in the datacenter is more secure. Overall it makes a great deal of sense, though the devil lies in the details. The challenge is that the solutions for desktop virtualization are not quite there yet and our client legacy works against us. We are still tightly wedded to fat client applications like Office, so the broad adoption of hosted and virtual desktop technologies is not mainstream and remains limited to specific vertical markets such as healthcare. In addition, hosted/virtual desktops require an efficient, optimized, scalable network design in order to operate reliably and within acceptable performance parameters.
ISVs will need to work with hardware, networking, and infrastructure providers to improve performance and make desktop virtualization a reality. “Good enough” versions of applications won’t cut it in the consumer or the business environment. Consumers will demand consistency across devices or go elsewhere. As Apple devices make their way back into the business environment, it will be necessary for Microsoft and Apple to work with ISVs to find ways to simplify the process for keeping these platforms in sync. Apple needs to shake off the moniker that is so often recited by Windows users “Macintoshes are okay for students and graphic designers, but not for business.” Users are going with their DoC and it represents new opportunities and challenges for all. Coming off of the Christmas and New Year’s break and record sales of Apple iPads and other tablet devices, IT departments will find themselves inundated with new devices on their network. It is time to start thinking outside of the box and find new ways to get the software in line with our highly dynamic working environments.