We've often talked about how desktop virtualization can help companies embrace the consumerization of IT by delivering Windows desktops to unmanaged endpoints. It also helps organizations continue using "legacy" Windows applications while they wait for native or browser-based replacements. What we haven't really looked at is that users can do the very same thing. Instead of calling it the Consumerization of IT, you could call it the Consumerization of Virtual Desktops!
OnLive is a prime example, although there are others like Nivio nDesktop and tuCloud Desktops on Demand (which isn't actually available yet). OnLive has been the most visible in the space of Personal Virtual Desktops (™. I called it.) lately, both because of the relative coolness of their solution and the fact that it was (but isn't anymore) in violation of Microsoft licensing rules for Windows.
Now that they've got that squared away, we can take a step back and look at who is using a service like this. One thing we noticed is that when Microsoft finally acknowledged that there was a problem with the way OnLive was first licensing its copies of Windows, various users started asking "How can this be!?" or "O HAI. WHATZ WRONGZ?" The reason for the surprise (and gibberish) is that the users of OnLive Desktop are consumers looking to do the exact same thing that organizations are doing to embrace consumerization. They're using desktop virtualization to access Windows desktops, and they don't care for one second about the backend infrastructure. If it's simple and it works, they love it.
The thing that's interesting is that the consumers are leading the charge. They're the ones saying "we need this." They're the ones that took it upon themselves to seek out a solution that allows them to get rid of that dinosaur Windows box that sucks up power for the one or two things they still need it for. Kudos to the companies out there providing them with a solution.
So, OnLive and Nivio are enabling users to do today what we've been saying corporations are going to do in the coming years - relegate Windows to the status of middleware, making it just another thing we have to do. As soon as someone comes out with a better way to access the app and consume the data, Windows will be out of the picture altogether. Obviously, Microsoft has a different story about that, but we'll see how well they do after Windows 8 comes out. To me, Windows 8 is a do or die moment for Windows.
Here's an example: for some people, the only reason they kept their laptop or PC around after they got an iPad was because they had to have it to sync with iTunes to transfer movies, music, apps, and photos, plus maybe one other Windows-only thing. The iTunes requirement is gone now with iCloud, and that means that some people can abandon their old ways altogether. If they still want to do that Windows-only thing, they don't need to buy a new PC or laptop--they just need to spend as little as $5/mo on a Windows desktop from OnLive. If you weigh that against buying a cheap $300 desktop, it would still take five years to break even (2.5 years on their premium, $10/month plan)! Talk about disruptive!
I'm not saying that everyone is doing this right now, but it all has to start somewhere. Now it's not just the lazy enterprise application processes that are driving Windows into the datacenter for use with next-gen devices (and then driving Windows away altogether). Users are doing it on their own with the same technology we use in the enterprise. That means that we just shifted into a higher gear on the road to the post-PC era.