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People talk about how Windows is dying, or that the PC is dead, but it's more that new technologies -- including advances in desktop virtualization -- are transforming the way users interact with Windows.
It's easy to get swept up in the negative hype, especially when you consider how many applications you and your employees use that aren't installed on Windows anymore. A more accurate picture is that Windows usage in the enterprise is changing and it holds a slightly smaller share of an expanding market. There are still many situations where it makes sense to replace PCs with Windows virtual desktops, but more companies in the future will their shift focus to delivering individual remote apps to workers.
Charting Windows' supposed demise
It might feel like Windows usage is on the decline, and according to NetMarketShare.com, it is. Windows' worldwide market share has declined from 95% in January 2009 -- the year Windows 7 was released -- to 91% in January 2016 -- a decline of 0.57% over the last seven years. There is a distinct downward trend, but it's not the precipitous drop that you've been led to believe. That huge drop could someday come, but for every one organization on the bleeding edge of technology, there are hundreds of others content to just run everything as-is until it breaks.
Despite the increased adoption of more modern platforms and services, Windows is the de facto OS, and these statistics only offer one perspective: how much Windows is in the world. They don't reflect the world that Windows exists in. In 2009 -- just two years after Apple released the iPhone -- there were roughly two billion devices in the world, and nearly every one of them was a PC running Windows. Today, there are three billion devices in the world, and though Windows is installed on the same number of devices as it was in 2009, there are another billion devices running things other than Windows. Overall Windows usage hasn't gone down; Windows' share of the pie is reduced because the pie is bigger.
Windows apps have longevity
Windows is still around for one reason: For all the modern applications, platforms and services people use, you still have Windows applications to deal with, and Windows apps need to run on Windows.
The real trend is not that the Windows OS is dying, but that users' reliance on the Windows desktop is declining, and that same trend carries over into desktop virtualization. In the past, the Windows desktop was the portal to everything users needed. It was a place to access applications and data, and employees counted on the desktop to organize everything. Over time, Windows virtual desktops and the complex back end that supports them grew into a hydra that required a lot of maintenance from IT.
Today, workers rely less on Windows virtual desktops. They can accomplish many of the workflows and tasks critical to our organizations -- email, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning and more -- without actually using Windows applications. Still, only the newest, smallest or most advanced organizations have every core service on a mobile or cloud-based platform, and because of that, Windows will stick around.
This trend will ultimately result in Windows becoming middleware. It will become the thing applications need to work, but it won't be directly exposed to end users. People use Windows because the applications require it, but you won't need, want or feel compelled to deliver and manage full Windows virtual desktops because it simply won't be worth the effort.
How Windows usage will change
The day is coming when Windows won't matter to end users as much as it does today. Even if you don't expose the Windows desktop to users, Windows will still be there behind the scenes, which means you still need to manage it. You'll manage the OS the same way you do today, but managing and delivering applications doesn't need to be as complicated as it is now or has been in the past. Keep in mind the more you compartmentalize your apps today, the easier it will be to transition to single-app delivery tomorrow, and there are lots of technologies out there that enable you to do it.
Don't get caught up in the hype that VDI is the only way to go about remote Windows app delivery, and don't get fooled into thinking you're behind the times if you still use Windows. There's no need to rush, but you should be mindful that the shift will happen -- someday. Each company's tipping point will be different, so be ready for it when it comes.
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