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Desktop virtualization 2014 predictions: Protocols, cloud and clients

With all these 2014 predictions flying about, let's see what's in store for cloud-hosted desktops and HTML 5 protocols in the coming year.

Before the real holiday rush began, I recapped the biggest booms and busts of the past year in the desktop virtualization world. So what's next?

2014 is going to start off hot for desktop virtualization and cloud-hosted desktop technology, mostly because VMware and Amazon got the train moving a few months early by announcing Desktop as a Service (DaaS) offerings.

Desktop as a Service

Make no mistake, 2014 will be the year that everyone thinks about DaaS. I say "thinks" because it's not a decision companies will take lightly. Nobody will head over to Amazon, sign up for an account, and move everyone to WorkSpaces over the weekend. The move to DaaS will be slow and plodding, but it will be on the minds of anyone tasked with managing virtual desktops.

There will be early adopters, of course. Those companies that already trust Amazon with other pieces of their infrastructure have already overcome the need to possess their own IT systems. They've already assessed any differences in security, downtime and engineering capabilities, so they have a leg up on many of the other companies that have yet to move things out of their data center. That also means Amazon has a distinct advantage in the DaaS market, despite not having a widely available product yet.

The rest of the companies will wait it out, watch what their contemporaries are doing and probably hold out for more mature products. DaaS, though it's been around for a long time, is still in its infancy. It will pick up speed throughout the year, though, as we learn more about VMware's offering, as well as the much-rumored Project Mohoro from Microsoft.

Protocols and clients

There has been a lot of progress in HTML5 protocols recently, and I think that progress will continue into 2014. Ericom and VMware have done amazing jobs with their HTML5 clients, a lot of which will be realized in the coming months. But it's not all about HTML5. Framehawk has been making a name for itself with its new protocol designed for wireless and WAN connections. The company is founded by former NASA employees who are well-versed in long delays due to slow or spotty bandwidth (or just the speed of light).

Don't forget about Parallels Access, either. It was the best iOS remote desktop experience that I've used. While it's primarily a consumer-oriented product for now, it has seen quite a bit of interest from enterprises. I'd expect to see something from Parallels in the first half of 2014.

More year-end coverage

DaaS will grow when Windows licensing changes

Top technology trends in VDI for 2013

Cloud desktops finally get their day

While I'm not expecting anything fantastic, I'm hopeful to learn in 2014 whether there is a place in the world for Android thin clients. I've had a love-hate relationship with them, first believing they would be the perfect thin clients, followed by evaluating their worthiness as a boat anchor.

The original use I favored was one where I could have Android apps (games and Office) running on the same device as my remote desktop connection, blending work and home. After I actually used one in that capacity, though, I realized that Android and its apps are 100% designed for mobile devices. That means they don't translate well to the desktop, especially without a touch interface.

In spite of that, I'm leaning toward liking them again with a stripped-down use case. If Android thin clients are used only as thin clients, with no other expectations of gaming or blending work and home environments together, then I can see some value. They can be managed by a mobile device management (MDM) tool, which most companies already have, and they can be hardened. What remains to be seen is the end-user experience of the client software when compared with other thin clients and repurposed desktops.

Windows 8.1

I'm not saying that companies will move en masse to Windows 8.1. I do believe, though, that Microsoft is adding some compelling features to it that will make it applicable in more uses in the enterprise. Those cases will probably not be corporate-purchases, though.

Workplace Join and Work Folders are both features intended to allow PCs running Windows 8.1 that are not joined to a domain to securely access corporate resources. There is also MDM and application-specific access to company-hosted Web apps. All of these, and more, will do something to help companies embrace Windows 8. I doubt it will help adoption on either the corporate or consumer side, though.

Overlap between desktop virtualization and EMM

In 2012 and 2013, enterprise mobility management (EMM) and desktop virtualization were very closely related. Each concept is about delivering applications and data to users in a secure, manageable way, while trying to give them the flexibility they require. That need for flexibility is coming on the backs of an increasingly savvy workforce full of people who have been using smartphones and computers for their entire life. In the past, IT could dictate what the users have and do with complete authority, but today the users have more power and knowledge than ever before.

That trend will only continue into 2014. As desktops are increasingly hosted outside your walls, as protocols improve to the point where you can access them from more devices over more connections and as end users bring more of their own devices into the workplace, the line will continue to blur until it's eventually wiped away.

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What's the most important trend that will happen in desktop virtualization in 2014?