Deconstructing the post-PC era: Cloud-based services won't kill Windows

The so-called post-PC era we've entered doesn't necessarily negate the need for Windows. Cloud-based services are all the rage, but we'll still need desktop management.

Last week at the Citrix Synergy 2012 conference, I noted a change of tone during the keynote. Instead of leading with all the successes and virtues of XenDesktop and XenApp, the presentation was geared toward devices and cloud-based services: the new direction of IT.

Amidst the announcements of new software versions and the acquisition of Virtual Computer (which I'll write about when XenClient Enterprise comes out in June), Citrix Systems Inc. CEO and keynote speaker Mark Templeton even used the term "post-PC era" -- not exactly the marketing message you'd expect from a company devoted to delivering Windows desktops. It's something you're more likely to hear out of VMware Inc. or a cloud company, not the maker of XenDesktop, XenApp and XenClient.

This post-PC era discussion is timely because I just wrote about the blending of consumerization and desktop virtualization, and it indicates where Citrix is heading as a company. It does not, however, indicate a decline in focus on XenApp, XenDesktop and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) overall. Instead, it reinforces Citrix's overall suite of products that now span all the way from Windows desktops to cloud-based services, such as the new Project Avalon. We even got hints of expanded support for mobile devices.

More news from
Citrix Synergy 2012:

Citrix Synergy 2012 conference coverage

Citrix Project Avalon offers BYOD shops Windows as a Service

Consumerization of IT: What's VDI got to do with it?

To Citrix, and us for that matter, the phrase "post-PC era" means that the days of the monolithic Windows PC sitting under the cubicle are dwindling. Five years ago, your operating system, applications and sometimes data lived on that box. Today, we are using cloud-based services such as SalesForce.com and data-sharing and storage services such as Dropbox or Citrix's ShareFile. Our applications increasingly come from the data center. Managing PCs is hard, and these technologies make it easier -- fundamentally changing the way we work.

Even when you hear VMware talk about a post-PC era without Windows, it's not audacious enough to suggest that Windows doesn't have a place in today's world. If you get caught up in the hype (not just from Citrix and VMware, mind you), you may be led to believe that you're behind the times for still running Windows on desktops. That's not the case. VMware makes most of its money virtualizing Windows (granted, its server OSes), so the company's not ignoring Windows, it's just getting you excited about the future.

Now that we're full into conference season, be prepared to hear more about the post-PC era. Know that while it's coming, it's not as dour as it seems. Windows is still here and will continue to be for several years, but the PC under your desk is becoming marginalized as applications, data and personality move to the data center or cloud.

The fact that you're still running Windows is perfectly fine. Just be aware that the shift toward hosted desktops and cloud-based services is happening. Our jobs are to worry about desktop management, and if you focus on making your desktop management as streamlined and efficient as possible, you won't get left behind.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabe Knuth
is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at BrianMadden.com. He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

This was first published in May 2012

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