Now that the holidays have come and passed, all manner of tablets and other mobile gadget gifts will be flooding homes and, inevitably, offices around the world. But there’s another possible byproduct of the trend – aside from Angry Birds – everywhere: The mobile revolution might stall or kill outright nascent desktop virtualization efforts.
It would be a surprising twist. Server virtualization has revolutionized IT’s “hidden” operations, cutting costs and speeding up deployments, and desktop virtualization was predicted to bring similar advantages to the most visible interaction between IT and their users. Gartner had predicted the hosted virtual desktop market to equal 40% of the worldwide professional PC market by 2013, from less than 1% in 2009.
That’s a highly optimistic outlook, but one that some tech pundits are saying is off the mark. As Kevin Fogarty writes for ITWorld, mobile is quickly becoming more important than desktop when it comes to virtualization:
“Specialized form factors” such as netbooks, tablets, and smartphones will become an increasingly large percentage and more important part of enterprise computing, according to IDC. Tablets specifically may eat as much as a third of new-PC sales during 2011, according to Gartner.
The growth is so dramatic that Citrix, VMware and Microsoft — and every other company making products for either mobile hardware or virtual desktops — is pitching mobile virtualization as the primary answer to the consumerization of IT and strategies to manage it.
It leads Fogarty to conclude mobile devices “make desktop virtualization the revolution that never was.”
He makes some compelling arguments, and he’s not alone: Jon Brodkin recently made similar arguments. But as far as I can see, the jury is still very out, and I don’t envy the analysts tasked with trying to guesstimate the future market, nor the IT power brokers trying to figure out how the dynamic will play in their market. Mobile virtualization sounds like a no-brainer, but a consistent mobile experience, across BlackBerry, iPhones, Androids and more would be a consistently awful one, while I’ve heard real plans, from real IT managers, about pushing virtual desktops live beyond the call centers where they dominate. Part of what makes the push possible is the power of cloud computing: Desktop software needs are reduced, meaning that more vanilla, low-powered offerings are OK, lowering the technical requirements of a desktop virtualization solution even as the tools get better.
I’d love to hear your thoughts: Is desktop virt going mainstream, or will the iArmies stop it in its track? Can’t all our virtual machines just get along? Let me know in the comments or at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.