A report from BriForum 2009 Chicago

Brian Madden reports from BriForum 2009 Chicago on his predictions of what desktop computing will look like short term and in the future.

This week's column comes from Chicago, where I'm hosting our seventh annual BriForum conference. BriForum is a three-day, vendor-neutral technical conference focused on desktop and application virtualization. This year we have almost 40 speakers, 56 technical breakout sessions and 27 vendors in our DEMO Lab.

I opened the conference with a general session on how far we've come as an industry. I think the vast majority of "desktop virtualization people" actually started out as "Citrix people" several years ago. But now that Citrix server-based computing technologies have been extended and applied to general desktops, and now that companies like VMware, Microsoft, Quest Software, Symantec and others are bridging the gap between traditional server-based computing and desktop virtualization, a lot of us have begun to bridge that gap too (career-wise).

As I've mentioned in this column before, the time is right for desktop virtualization. We're all focused on squeezing every bit of efficiency out of our system and Windows 7 is just around the corner. The technologies are coming together nicely and people are actually starting to use them.

After the keynote, I conducted a session with Martin Ingram called: "Towards the new desktop." In this session we explored where desktop computing was going, in both the short term and long term.

In the short term, we believe that the user density problems that make VDI look less attractive, when compared to Terminal Server, will go away. We also believe that remote display protocols will be a non-issue and that they'll work for whatever situation is at hand. In the next few years, we'll also learn how to completely "modularize" Windows, enabling complete, personalized, on-demand assembly of Windows images for users -- regardless of whether they're VDI, TS, local, remote, streamed, virtualized, offline, etc.

Martin and I believe that all of the technical bits needed for this whole desktop virtualization vision will be ready and usable very soon. Actually, many of the components are here today; it's just that we're still figuring out how to put them all together.

Looking farther into the future, we feel that it's inevitable that the cloud will affect the desktop. Initial cloud apps will probably not be Windows apps, but that's okay -- they'll still slowly make headway in companies. This is probably more likely in small and medium companies whose IT needs are simpler. What's interesting is that even hard-core Windows apps like Microsoft Office will move into the cloud. So, it looks like there's potential that no Windows app is cloud-proof!

Then again, there's nothing that says Windows apps themselves can't come from the cloud. It's conceivable that an App-V-like technology could be used by an ISV to stream a Windows app directly to an end user from the cloud.

Of course, moving all of our applications to the cloud introduces some complexities. In today's pre-cloud world, Windows does a great job as the aggregator for all of our apps, settings and preferences. But how would that work in the cloud? Would I be able to open a Word document via Microsoft Office Live that I received as a GMail attachment without first saving it to my desktop?

These were just some of the thoughts that Martin and I shared with the audience in our breakout session, and of course that was just one of the 56 breakout sessions going on this week. Stay tuned for next week's column when I'll write more about the cool stuff I learned and the vendors I met. In the meantime, I need to head back into BriForum to get ready for another full day of sessions!

Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, super technical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He's written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Brian's blog, Brianmadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. Brian is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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