Just what is a “Workspace”?

So many products in our space use the term “Workspace.” Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t.

I used to think that Brian Madden, my former colleague and founder of this site (and my brother... a lot of people still get confused), was too cantankerous and jaded. A prime example is this article rant from a year ago: Vendor marketing slogans are ridiculous. However, my opinion is starting to soften. After writing about enterprise mobility and end user computing for six years now, I’m ready to write my most Brian-inspired article yet.

Have you noticed just how many different categories of EUC-related products have the name “workspace” in them? It’s confusing, and it’s time we came to a common definition of “workspace.”

Here the categories of products I’ve come across that use “workspace,” I’m sure you can add to this list:

  • Big suites and bundles comprising endpoint management, virtual desktops, app management, and identity management
  • Enterprise file sync and share
  • User environment management for Windows
  • The enterprise-controlled half of a dual-persona mobile device
  • Virtual desktops, and especially DaaS
  • App launching portals and app catalogs
  • Identity management

To me, “workspace” implies all of the things that make up end user computing today: Windows and Mac desktops and laptops, phones and tablets, mobile apps, web/SaaS apps, desktop apps, virtual apps, virtual desktops, and identity. We’ve been talking for years about how EUC is moving beyond the Windows desktop—workspace is the embodiment of this trend.

The best use of “workspace,” then, is for anything that can connect or manage as many of these components as possible. The big EUC suites, VMware Workspace One and Citrix Workspace Suite are very aptly named. (So I don’t think they’re copying off of each other, and really, Microsoft could also have called their recent Microsoft 365 bundles “Workspace 365” instead. There are a couple of other big platforms that could fit in here, like IBM and Ivanti, too.)

Identity and access management is at the core of a workspace; thanks to identity standards, an ID platform can wire all the workspace components together and possibly even provide a convenient portal to get to all of them, so I think that might be a good potential use of “workspace,” too.

When I hear about other, much narrower products that call themselves “workspaces,” I just think, “But the workspace that I use in my job is broader!”

Please note—this isn’t a knock on any of the other “workspace” products. Marketers have an important job to do, and I know many have complained about product names before me, and many will after me.

But when I think about a “workspace” product, I think it should address as many aspects of end user computing as possible.

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