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Death of the Desktop

Monday 8 November 2010

When I thought about writing this blog it was going to be called “death of a PC”. This was going to be about what happened to me on a recent sales trip to Dubai when a demo machine we had set up remotely from the UK died before my eyes a few hours before an important presentation.

I ended up doing the demo on my laptop and averted what could have been a total disaster; however, it made me think a bit about how we can avoid this kind of thing in the future… don’t use standalone desktops for demos and make sure you have a backup plan for starters…

On my way home I read an article in “Computer Weekly” titled “Keep taking the tablets” about the projected 198% increase in tablet computers in 2011. This made me wonder about the future of the humble desktop and whether or not this was the beginning of the end…

When my son and daughter last complained about being left behind by their mates on the hardware front because their machines were now 12 months old, they didn’t want new desktops, they wanted to replace their PC’s with laptops. Things are changing…

Over the past couple of weeks, my son has started to use an iPad to operate his laptop or his old creaking PC via WIFI using some really impressive remote control software that cost just 57 pence!

The next time I’m dragged down to PC World or trawling the internet for hardware, am I really going to be interested in buying a desktop?

What seems an age ago now, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison took opposite sides on where hardware was going (remember the thin client debate?).

Larry Ellison believed that the personal computer was about to be eclipsed by the internet. Bill Gates believing that every man and his dog would own a PC (with windows on it).

Larry Ellison’s vision was around the use of lightweight network computers which would use the capacity and grunt of large servers hosted on the internet to process and run the application software, leaving the clients doing little more than sending and receiving messages and rendering output to a screen. With less demand to host heavy weight applications on the client, there would be less need for client licences – a scary thought for Mr Gates at the time.

Away from the big hitting business visionaries, what does the average man on the street mainly use their desktops for today?

…Games, word processing, social networking and music?

These days, most gamers get their kicks from their XBOX, Play Station or Nintendo so the desktop is not quite as important as it used to be.

Mobility and portability are becoming increasingly important too. The weight and size of the machine are becoming as big a factor as a machines power, memory and storage capacity.

We see Google writing more and more free applications that run over the Internet. When we all start to do our word processing over the internet too, where does this leave the humble desktop?

Looking from a business perspective there is an even bigger shift going on as the demand for making things available over the net and 100% reliable makes more and more people look towards hosting and outsourcing.

Server hardware is getting better and better. Whilst power is increasing, price is decreasing, while the internet is getting bigger, our connection to it is getting ever faster.

We now have virtualised servers, we have the cloud. The barriers to usage are being knocked down one by one.

As I sat in despair watching the desktop blue screen and crash, I knew that the software was not going to be moved to a new desktop.

Two weeks later and it was moved to a blade. In fact, it’s on a VM on a blade, and soon to be moved to the cloud. When it’s it in the cloud it could get moved from machine to machine at the flick of a switch or a click of the mouse. To access the application you need a browser, so an iPad, Smartphone or dusty old desktop will do.

Things are definitely changing. It’s all pretty exciting as long as you’re not a desktop manufacturer! I’ll be run my demos on hosted servers from now on – with my laptop as a backup just in case access to the Internet’s down!

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