Enterprise IT Watch Blog

Jan 3 2011   12:17PM GMT

Why iPads might be desktop virtualization’s greatest threat

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

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.

Michael Morisy is the editorial director for ITKnowledgeExchange. He can be followed on Twitter or you can reach him at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

7  Comments on this Post

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  • Shilpa Venkateshwaran
    Nice post. Desktop traditionally was where everything was stored: applications, personal documents, data contacts, etc. But with smart phones and tablets, some of this is already distributed. With cloud you can still store this and more and access it from anywhere. So the real question is how much of your stuff can float in the cloud? What are the risks?
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  • Michael Morisy
    Thanks for the comment Shilpa. Sounds like a great topic for a follow up post!
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  • Penicks
    You have to take the "desktop" out of the Virtualization. It doesn't matter whether it's a laptop, netbook, notebook, desktop...what ever... we will continue to implement virtualization of these "access devices" because it is so much easier to support the software centralized and virtualized as well as storage is organized and secured thru security profiles. A user downloads the applet that allows them to get to the supporting software that they need to assess/use... for business the activity may be in a private or public cloud, for personal, right now it's public clouds, but I believe as threats/security issue increase for all these devices, even public personal users may contract with Private hosts to keep all their activity from prying eyes....look for this next on the horizon.
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  • 14ALL
    Imagine a virtual desktop that can recognize the particular device you are on at the moment and display accordingly! Perhaps even have the ability to incorporate local PDA apps within the virtual offering! That would put the smart phones and tablets in their place for sure!
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  • Is desktop virtualization in trouble? A Follow-Up. - Enterprise IT Watch Blog
    [...] while back, Michael Morisy posed the question: Are iPads desktop virtualization’s greatest threat? When we posed the same question to the Cloud Computing, VMware, Virtualization and Enterprise 2.0 [...]
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  • Did iPhones make the desktop virtualization call easier? - Enterprise IT Watch Blog
    [...] thing John brought up was the mobile vs. desktop virtualization debate. His stance was that, far from detracting from desktop virtualization, mobile devices and tablets [...]
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  • Ecorro
    I think this is very interesting specially because VDI manufacturers are not really thinking that there is a trade off between the adoption of VDI and the adoption of tablets by the enterprise. I think that in certain circumstances tablets are mutually exclusive with virtual desktops especially is the tablets gets empowered by SaaS aps, then there is no need for windows, therefore there is not room for VDI (at least the VMware's and CTX implementations of VDI). It'd be great if Michael could write an update of this article by the end of Q4FY11 to see what happened at the end in this year.
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