Last month Paul Thurott published a series of rumors about big changes that are coming to the Windows desktop OS, including Microsoft bringing the desktop back and allowing Metro touch-based apps to run in a window on the desktop along with traditional desktop apps.
I meant to write about this back then but I forgot, and I was reminded last week when Paul published another article saying these changes would be part of Windows 9 (codenamed "Threshold") which is slated for April 2015.
(Can we talk about that name for a sec? Paul says it's because Threshold will come after Windows Phone 8 but before Microsoft combines Windows Phone and Windows RT into a single codebase, so the timing is when Microsoft is on the threshold of a truly consolidated OS. Personally I like to think of it like Microsoft wants Windows 9 to be the crossing of the threshold into the new house of Microsoft that consumers actually want—a house that has windows and glass and things you can touch. Or maybe it's like no one will buy Windows until this minimum threshold of functionality is built? Or, heck, maybe Microsoft has realized we've finally hit the limit of our threshold of pain?)
Regardless of the meaning of the name, let's think about what this change might mean.
First, I've been writing a lot about how the "desktop" as a concept is changing. Instead of the desktop being a single Windows desktop OS where you aggregate your files, settings, and programs, the desktop will evolve into more of a concept that applies to whatever device you're actually using at that moment. So yeah, the desktop of the future will still be the aggregation point for your files, settings, and programs, but they'll be aggregated into a native experience on your phone, your tablet, or your PC.
Furthermore I've written that traditional Windows desktop applications will become the long tail of enterprise apps, and that in the future the only desktop apps we'll need will be occasional line-of-business apps that we can't get migrated to future platforms.
While most people agree with those two ideas, most disagree on the timing. I've been writing that it will happen "soon," (I'm thinking the next few years), while most others believe the desktop will be around for a long, long time.
One of my arguments for a quick transition was that Microsoft seemed to be abandoning the desktop, but if these Threshold plans are true, then it looks like those who disagreed with me will be right—the traditional desktop will be around for a long time.
Long live the desktop! What's that mean for us?
Assuming this is all true, what does it mean for us? First of all, it means that our traditional ways of desktop management are not going away anytime soon. We'll still be dealing with image management and patching and Windows profiles well into the Windows 9 timeframe. (Hopefully we'll get better integration with cloud, web, mobile, and other types of apps and profiles, but those will be in addition to Windows desktops rather than replacing them.)
Second, it means that the idea of replacing traditional desktop management (SCCM, etc.) with some kind of new age mobile-like desktop management (MDM, etc.) is not going to happen anytime soon. While many people (myself included) believe that MDM is "better" than traditional desktop management, and we fantasize about replacing SCCM with MDM, the reality is that the traditional Windows desktop applications that we manage with SCCM are very different than the mobile apps we manage with MDM.
Some folks have gotten excited about the idea of using MDM to manage Windows desktops. After all, isn't that a feature of Windows 8.1? Actually, no, as Jack Madden explained last month. Unfortunately the MDM management capabilities of Windows 8.1 only apply to the Windows Store "Metro" apps—not to traditional Windows desktop mode applications. So we can assume it's going to continue that way for awhile, since again, Windows apps are just different animals and can't be managed like mobile apps. (The one exception to that is maybe if you used FSLogix for your all your traditional Windows apps then you can make them behave more like Windows Store apps where they could appear and disappear instantly and reliably?)
Oh BTW, this is also great for DaaS!
Remember Gabe and I have also declared that 2014 will be the "Year of Daas" (at least when it comes to people choosing where to host their VDI). One of the funny things people said when we wrote that was that, "Hey, so now the DaaS thing is finally catching on when the traditional desktop that makes up the DaaS doesn't matter?"
Well at least now we know that with the traditional Windows desktop not going anywhere anytime soon, we'll still have something to DaaS about for the next few years. Yay