Last week, Brian wrote about why he considers his desktop (that runs local applications) to be a “cloud desktop.” (That article in one sentence: it’s because even though his apps and data are local, they’re all downloaded from and synchronized by the cloud.) A few weeks before that, I wrote about the importance of device native applications for tablets. (And that article in one sentence: not many people will want to use a remote desktop on a tablet when tablet native applications are around.) Put those two together and the logical thought is: “Of course! The preference for device native applications includes laptops, too!”
There are some major differences, however, between the need for native tablet applications and the need for local laptop applications. The case for native laptop and PC applications isn’t as clear cut as it is with tablets.
With a tablet, it’s easy to recognize why a hosted desktop (VDI, TS, or a blade) accessed with a remote desktop client is less than satisfactory, with all the required pinching and zooming and difficulty navigating a mouse and keyboard-centered environment with a touch screen. When accessing a hosted desktop from a PC or laptop, things are a lot smoother. The user is clicking and typing away, the way the applications were meant to be used. The issue of usability, from an ergonomic standpoint, is solved. The issue that is left behind is remote execution.
When accessing a hosted desktop from a corporate office, a user is less likely to notice the drawbacks of accessing a hosted OS than if they’re on the road working off of a laptop. In the office, whether working on a thin client, zero client, or a full PC, they have a good, fast LAN connection that rarely goes away. But when on a road with a laptop, remotely-accessing a hosted desktop becomes an unpleasant (or impossible) experience.
These are known drawbacks to server based computing, and ways of addressing them exist. But just like with tablets, the consumerization of IT provides alternatives. If the IT department took the position that a remotely accessed desktop is the solution for when a user is on the road and there’s no offline solution offered, then the user is driven out into the wilds of consumerization (or FUIT, depending on how you look at it). They can get their data onto the local device in all the usual ways—Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote, whatever. Then, just like with a tablet, the data is outside of the corporate environment and unmanaged.
A user will then have created their own local environment like the one that Brian described, but this isn’t for everyone. There are a lot of advantages that come with interacting with the exact same hosted environment every time, regardless of how it’s accessed, and for some users that will be more important than having a native, local experience, either on a tablet, a laptop, or both. For users that want to build a “cloud desktop” consisting of local applications synchronized by the cloud, there are a lot of moving parts to plug in. There are a bunch of cloud services to plug in to, plus all that software to re-install, and then other little details, like custom dictionaries. That’s too much to manage for some users.
Just as tablet native applications can’t be ignored in favor of various forms of remotely-accessed hosted desktops, local device native applications are important for laptop and desktop users as well. I’ll admit that the scenario that I described is highly unlikely, but it is possible (especially in BYOC situations) and worth keeping in mind when planning application and desktop delivery strategy.