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Goodbye to the laptop (and good riddance)

April 2, 2012

The laptop.  No other tool has changed how we work in the past 15-20 years.  It took us away from our desks and out into the coffee shops, homes, and airports we work in today.

Which is why it’s a good time to kill it, or at least replace it with something a bit different.

Do I mean force everyone to use a tablet?  Maybe.  Maybe I mean give users a choice: if they want a tablet, let them use a tablet.  Maybe provide them a lower end desktop PC and a tablet for travel.  Desktops have longer useful lives, are less likely to be the cause of data loss, and generally are lower cost to operate/maintain over the life of the device.  Tablets are portable, easily maintained, can connect back to the office easily, and generally require a lot less worry for any size IT organization.  For non-web apps, we can provide Citrix/Terminal Services/other solutions for end users to access their software (or data we do not wish to have an easy exit path from our data center).  Innovative solutions like Oxygen Cloud allow us to link our remote users into existing NAS investment which allows end users to maintain access to data within reasonable access constraints.  Mobile Device Management tools – including simple and low cost service based solutions – reduce management overhead and create tools by which end users, IT, and others can manage devices and handle data loss incidents faster and easier than with current laptop platforms.  For staff in far flung locales, hands on tablet support may be easier to come by:  instead of having to dispatch a PC back to the central office, or have a technician visit, the employee can visit a mobile provider or tablet vendor store front for assistance.

For users where tablet may not make sense, BYOD combined with VDI/Application Virtualization and other technologies allow staffers to provide their own machine, reducing costs.  CIOs see BYOD as a solution to a variety of IT budgeting issues:  a mechanism to reduce expensive end user system expense, which can be moved to other more useful functions both inside of and external to IT.  Less devices mean happier users:  they get to ‘pick’ what they use, be it an Android tablet, or a Windows laptop. In any number of cases: what I’ve said for tablets ring true for BYOD.  The compute/storage remains in the computer room.

What could be the savior of the laptop?  Licensing.  Today, understanding the licensing for Microsoft Office is easy:  one per machine. The problem with VDI MS Office is one per machine applies and sticks (for 90 days).  So if an end user connects to a VDI instance from their home PC and their tablet, that is two licenses required to remain compliant.  The OnLive Desktop saga shows that this is an area not to take lightly at all.

So where does all this go?  If you look at where companies like Dell and HP are pointing their R&D budgets, it’s on a mix of higher end consumer systems (XPS 13) and enterprise technology (storage, networks) to improve the data center.  The writing is on the wall:  time to somewhat bury the laptop.

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