What's the future of Windows in the enterprise? Middleware.

I believe that VDI is simply a "form factor" change for desktops that doesn't fundamentally transform the enterprise's end user computing environment.

A big part of my desktop virtualization road show talks is "The Future of Windows in the Enterprise." As you're well aware, while I love VDI technology, I believe that VDI is simply a "form factor" change for desktops that doesn't fundamentally transform the enterprise's end user computing environment. I also don't believe that the future desktop is as simple as just converting all of our existing desktops to VDI.

So if the future of Windows in the enterprise is not VDI, then what is it?

First, remember that I make a distinction between "The Desktop" (Big D) and a "desktop" (little d). The Big D Desktop is the complete monolithic "brick" of an experience that we've been delivering to users over the past twenty years. It includes the Windows OS, applications, settings, data, shortcuts, configuration options, wallpapers, kittens, the registry, DLLs, and every other aspect of a user's end user computing experience.

But as I wrote in my 2012 article "The 8 components of the future desktop," we can break that old monolithic desktop brick into a bunch of little pieces. Some of those pieces are our responsibilities as IT professionals, while others each user will "bring" with him- or herself on whatever device the user happens to be using at that moment.

Breaking apart the desktop and delivering applications, data, configurations, etc., separately means that we can easily integrate applications based on different runtimes into a suite of services for our users. We're already seeing this today with VMware's Horizon Suite and Citrix's Cloud Gateway. While both companies used to only deliver Microsoft Windows desktop applications, today they can integrate traditional desktop apps with web apps, HTML5, local iOS and Android apps, etc.

Once we're in that world—where all our apps are not just windows apps then there's less of a need to run and manage Windows on the endpoint (as I wrote a few months ago in "Who wants to manage all the "gunk" of Windows just to deliver one app? When will you ditch Windows on the endpoint?" In that world, Windows will be nothing more than a piece of middleware. It will be the platform we use to deliver old school traditional Windows desktop applications.

By the way, I touched on this briefly back in 2010 in my article, "Is Microsoft Windows in danger of becoming the 'XP Mode' of the future app world?." When it comes to traditional Windows desktop applications, the answer is "Yes." But that's okay.

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