A recent conversation with Microsoft revealed a number of questions about where desktop IT could be heading. Logically, it makes sense for Microsoft to use the power of its public cloud to stream Windows desktops to any device. The only prerequisite is that the device has an HTML 5 web browser. It gives people the flexibility to access Windows from anywhere they can get an internet connection. And, according to Microsoft, that connection does not have to be particularly fast. Just 1.0 to 1.5 Mbps should be sufficient.
People no longer run out to buy music on CDs and vinyl because they can get what they want immediately via Spotify. Netflix and other streaming video services mean people don’t need a DVD player or video recorder to watch movies and TV shows. Why should a PC be any different?
The Web has changed everything
On 6th August 1991, British computer scientist, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, launched the very first website. Thirty years on and the web and web-based technologies enable people to connect to an almost limitless resource of information. Thanks to the worldwide Web, people now listen to streamed videos and music, rather than use devices to play physical media.
At its most basic level, a PC is simply a device to run programs. In the olden days, those programs were distributed on floppy disks. Now they are stored on servers and downloaded via the Web. Applications are increasingly designed to take advantage of the huge amount of computational power and storage available in the public cloud. For instance, the fact that SaaS products run in a web browser, shows that a high-end client PC device is not strictly needed to use powerful enterprise software.
If someone can get most of their work done using web-based SaaS, do they really need a full blown PC? Streaming a Windows desktop over the Web to a Cloud PC potentially offers the flexibility to have a desktop environment on tap, whenever it is needed, without all the management headaches associated with a physical PC.
From an industry perspective, Microsoft’s Cloud PC offers software developers a guaranteed environment to distribute applications. It is entirely possible to configure the virtual hardware in a way that is optimised to run a single application like video encoding or analytics. A Cloud PC may be able to benefit from high bandwidth virtual networking to connect to storage pools and back-end server applications hosted in the same public cloud. Going forward, third party software providers could host applications on Azure, which are then distributed as preconfigured Cloud PCs.