Do you really need the desktop?

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Charles Ponniah, Fujitsu’s lead architect for End User Services challenges the role of the desktop in the organisation…

With so much technology around us, there are plenty of questions for every CIO, IT Department and the end users themselves.

One major question that seems to be constantly asked is “Do you really need the desktop?”. The “desktop” here isn’t about the hardware workstation or PC that sits on or under your work desk. The “desktop” here is all about the familiar sight we all see once we’ve logged in past the “CTRL + ALT + DEL” screen and for some of us its that “cluttered” workspace with all our shortcuts, files, folders, music, pictures and anything we can get our hands on.

The “desktop” still has a part to play in the end user computing world and how we use our workstation today. Currently around 80% of applications require a desktop,  but in 2-3 years time this could reduce to as low as 30%.

This predicted massive percentage drop over the next 2-3 years has very much to do with the proliferation of the multitude of devices ranging from tablets, smartphones and “phablets (combining the feel of a tablet with the convenience of a smartphone).

The huge way in which end users make use of their smartphones and tablets at home is quickly being transferred to the workplace. End users expect the ability to work with these devices at work and the quickly changing technology landscape is fast becoming an enabler for these devices in the workplace.

The reason: people are using and want to use applications in their natural form, sized for things like the iPad with a smaller form factor, portability, responsive on touch screens, tablet ready and so on.

In today’s world the VDI word keeps getting repeated for the ability to deliver end user’s their workspace anywhere, anytime and from any device. But you’re still stuck with a desktop that appears hard to navigate on a small form factor device as mentioned above.

Enter the applications only workspace. Take away the desktop, the need to secure the desktop, the need to have shortcuts on your desktop or in your documents folder and the need to launch a start menu to launch applications.

Imagine a world where, you pick up your mobile tablet, scroll across your tablet screens and find an icon called Office Email, touch the icon to launch it and hey presto your working on your office email and happily responding to work emails, adding meetings, responding to meeting invites and so on. Then you look for an icon that says Office Browser, launch that and perform functions like approving time sheets, expenses and entering your timesheet for the day. The next thing is to launch an icon called Office Docs which then you proceed to launch a document called “Company Ideas – My review.docx”. You then type in your review, comments and corrections.

From the above, you’ve just done what you normally do by getting to a company office desktop but this time avoiding the need to go looking for the start menu or shorcuts to the programs, finding the shorcut you’ve created in a folder called “a million shortcuts” through launching Windows Explorer, to finding the shortcut to a word editing document and you do get the picture of how very quickly the “desktop” world will be replaced by the “apps” world.

As a future state investment, companies should look to invest in mobile application development and delivery, converting current “desktop” applications to web based applications, and last but not least virtual application delivery technologies. These items also start to make the workspace of the future more manageable, secure, simple to upgrade from a central location and most of all adapting to the landscape of the corporate workspace expected by the end user.

The challenge for all CIOs and their teams are to ensure that:

  • They have the right investments made into virtualised and mobile application delivery
  • Managing and securing corporate systems to provide access on mobile and smart devices
  • Understanding the corporate, security and human resource policies that need to be in place
  • To enable or not enable BYOD
  • Enabling the end users with the right access for the right device
  • Embracing the cloud enabling technologies that are there to bring data, applications and access to end users
  • To embrace how the new age of working in and accessing the corporate workspace is almost required to promote a high level of satisfaction in the workplace

End user computing has already started to move towards a very end user centric world and a very big part of it all is ensuring that end users have access to their applications. Applications coded correctly, to fit the right form factor and on the right form factor makes for a very pleasant end user experience which only improves productivity.

As a point of note, I just typed all this from an iPad in about 20 minutes.

2 thoughts on “Do you really need the desktop?

  1. Good article, Charles! In the next few years the challenge seems to me to meet the needs of this “blended” application world, where some older applications are definitely tied to the old desktop concept, while newer mobile apps start to become more commonplace and progressively replace them. Ever the way with legacy technologies. We seem destined to retain these old technologies, with some applications long outliving their original intended lifespan.

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