Tablets, phones make desktop virtualization the revolution that never was

Virtual desktops continue to grow, but focus shifts to ultramobile computing


The edge will become the normal work environment for the most productive, influential end users in the enterprise -- top executives, sales and marketing, field operations -- people who work directly with customers and whose IT-enabled productivity directly affects the company's bottom line.

Combined -- the drive toward consumerized IT backed by better hardware, cellular and WiFi networks, and demands by influential end users for choose-your-own technology rights -- will push ultra-mobile form factors ahead of traditional PCs and laptops on IT agendas.

Because handhelds are so much less secure and reliable than traditional hardware when not backed by virtual versions of themselves, virtualization of mobile devices will move to the front of the agenda at many end-user organizations.

Most organizations that adopt or plan to adopt virtual desktops until now have done it gradually and tactically -- only where it makes sense and only to the extent they really need it, according to Gartner's Wolf and IDC's Ian Song.

That makes desktop virtualization a point product for most organizations -- implemented to relive a particular set of problems or point of pain -- not a strategic technology they implement everywhere unless there's a good reason not to. Virtual desktops will continue to increase in number and importance, but they won't become the kind of revolutionary, disruptive influence implied in expectations of a "Year of the Virtual Desktop."

Mobile-client virtualization looks very much like the opposite -- a virtualization technology that captured the imaginations of IT and end users as quickly as virtual servers did, and with nearly as clear a justification. Ultimately, rather than just a way to connect tablets, mobile virtualization may largely replace remote-access products for everyone, not just tablet and phone users.

Which would make 2011, like 2010, 2009 and 2008 another Year of the Virtual Desktop that never came. At least this time there will be a clear reason -- one you can read about on your phone riding in to work.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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