Who wants to manage Windows just do deliver one app? When will you ditch Windows on the endpoint?

We all know that the Windows operating system was designed in the early 90s when computers were used ways that were nothing like they're used today. Even today's latest, greatest Windows 8 touch-based OS still has the 20-year legacy of the registry, DLLs, user profiles, COM objects, and all the other "stuff" that makes Windows what it is.

We all know that the Windows operating system was designed in the early 90s when computers were used ways that were nothing like they're used today. Even today's latest, greatest Windows 8 touch-based OS still has the 20-year legacy of the registry, DLLs, user profiles, COM objects, and all the other "stuff" that makes Windows what it is. That's pretty much a necessary evil though. Barring some breakthroughs in technologies like WINE, you still need Windows to run Windows desktop applications.

Of course we've tried to deliver Windows desktop applications without really delivering Windows. The original Citrix products of the late 90s MetaFrame / Terminal Server era got us thinking about how we can deliver Windows desktop applications as a service. It put the idea in our head that the endpoint didn't matter and we could deliver a traditional Windows desktop applications to "any, any, any."

While that datacenter-hosted Windows application delivery model made sense in a lot of cases, it wasn't for every application in every situation. Running Windows desktop applications in a datacenter is a lot more expensive than running them directly on a user's Windows laptop or desktop, and the sub-par graphics and peripheral support—not to mention the lack of offline support—meant that datacenter-hosted Windows applications were always going to be a niche.

Fast forward to today. While many of our desktop applications are now web-based, most of us still have lots of traditional Windows desktop applications. The historical limitations of desktop remoting technologies like RDSH and VDI have meant we only host Windows desktop applications in our datacenters when we have to. Most of our users still have Windows-based laptops running locally-installed Windows desktop applications (since "Windows needs Windows" it makes sense for us to install, manage, and maintain those applications locally onto a user's laptop rather than trying to deliver them all remotely).

But imagine a future with no Windows applications. Are we still going to install and manage the user's client OS for them? Are we still going to deal with all the headaches of Windows on the endpoint if the user isn't running any Windows apps? We'll definitely to that future at some point, even if it's 50 years from now. But thinking about that world has a direct effect on what happens between now and then in our current environment.

To understand this, think back to 1995 when all we had were Windows desktop applications. So 1995 was 100% Windows desktop applications, and 2050 (or whatever year you're using) has 0% Windows desktop apps. Today in 2013 we might be about halfway there.

Given that mindset, what's the minimum number of Windows desktop applications a user must have for us to manage the Windows instance (physical or VM, layered or old traditional)? How many Windows desktop applications does a user need before you say, "Ugh! Fine.. whatever.. I'll give that user a full Windows desktop so he or she can run those Windows apps." Back in 1995 it was obviously the right way to do things since all our apps were Windows apps. And in 2013 with a 50/50 split it makes sense to deploy and manage Windows too. But what happens when you look forward? In a future world where you only have one remaining Windows desktop application, are you going to manage Microsoft Windows on the endpoint—complete with the registry and DLLs and the user profile and the browser and the viruses and the spyware—are you really going to manage all that Windows "gunk" on the endpoint for just one measly Windows desktop application?

I think not!

If it were me and I only had one Windows desktop app to manage I'd probably throw it on an RDSH server or serve it up as a seamless VDI application. That way I only have to manage the "Windows-ness" of everything in some datacenter and I don't have to make sure the user has a huge list of requirements.

Okay, so if you're with me so far then you can see how if you have just one Windows desktop application, it makes sense to deliver it remotely. That's the only way you can truly not worry about the end point. Now what if you only have two Windows apps? Do you manage and deliver all the Windows gunk just for two apps, or do you just remote them? What about 3 apps? Or 4?

 

Windows gunk inflection point

Delivering and managing a whole local Windows environment is a huge pain and completely unnecessary for delivering a few remote Windows apps. So when do you decide to make the cutover? I imagine it will be much sooner than before "all" our Windows desktop apps are gone?

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I don't know what the "gunk" point is, but I do know that the general process of choosing which apps are placed in the datacenter is based on the ability to use them effectively in that model. So it stands to reason that as the number of applications left on Windows dwindles, the harder they will be to move into the datacenter in any capacity.


I'm guessing companies evaluate the gunk point each time they switch platforms or web-ify apps, but the fact of the matter is that we're picking the low-hanging fruit. 2050 might be about right!


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As long as the majority of people continue to use Office for work, things will move very slowly as MS blocks progress until they can replace lost dollars.


100% want to be out of the end user device management business as there is no IT value add. Pass those costs to the user and manage apps and data of value only. That means more VDI/RDS to deal with legacy apps, while the SLOW transition is made to mobile apps native and HTML 5.


Don't under estimate the amount of crap integrated into office that will not port over easily to a new world. Plus offline will continue to be key even for tablets for Office type work. Google apps is just crap in comparison.


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I'm certainly biased because of my work at Stratodesk; from what I see in the market I can NOT imagine people without "rich" applications (Windows, Mac, ...) anytime soon. I DO see Windows-less PCs displaying rich Windows apps daily though ;-)


Thinking more ahead, not everything in IT will have to be reinvented. People will feel a need to write letters and work on spreadsheets, do adhoc database stuff - MS Office is just great for this and solves the problem. Why reinvent the vacuum cleaner? Why reinvent the toothbrush? Why should we reinvent something that just works? Who says that any HTML5/6/7 won't suffer from the same illnesses? If develop web apps today, you see all those browser incompatibilities, that's much worse than different Win32 API versions...


Again, I'm referring to the idea of the "rich" app per se, not the management/OS/DLL/security quagmire of Windows.


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I think the key consideration is: "what will be the future alternatives to Windows based workstations (laptops/desktops)?" IT will ditch legacy Windows "gunk" on the end-points when they have something better to replace it with, or when the users force their hand. As we know, this process has already began, and I believe it will reach the tipping point much, much sooner than 2050.


In some cases this will force IT to replace legacy Windows apps with new apps that are better suited for the newer end-point devices. When this is not possible then remote access to legacy Windows apps will be the popular solution, I believe.


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I think there are two false premises in your article:


#1 Windows is hard to manage.  I don't think so.  If it's hard, then you are probably doing something wrong.  While Windows has a 20+ years legacy "gunk," it also has 20+ years of manageability features.  Use them, and then it isn't so hard.  This also begs the question, what end-point OS is cheaper and easier to manage in the enterprise than Windows?  None that I know of.


#2 Windows OS needs Windows apps to be a viable choice on the end-point.  No, Windows stands alone as end-point OS product that is competitive with other choices.  People don't pick Mac just because it runs the Mac apps they desperately want.  They pick Mac on it's own merits as an end-point OS.  


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