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Top 10 PC and desktop stories of 2015

The PC is not dead – but the desktop is evolving as IT departments embrace BYOD, software as a service and cloud-based storage

Over the last few years the trend for bring your own device (BYOD) programmes – and the fact that phones are now much smarter and many people use tablets – has meant IT departments must reconsider what it means to provide desktop IT.

Why offer a standard Windows desktop, when many off-the-shelf applications such as Salesforce, Workday, Concur and other SaaS products are available via a browser or a mobile app?

Email via the PC-based Outlook client can limit worker’s flexibility while a virtual private network (VPN) can easily become a barrier to productivity.

Products such as Box and DropBox have gained wider acceptance in the enterprise and, with Office 365 integration, cloud-based storage is providing IT with a simple way to offer employees and external business partners access to documents that does not require managing a VPN and complex firewall rules.

While Windows is clearly not going away in the enterprise, and Microsoft’s push with Windows 10 will keep the operating system front and foremost as the preferred environment for PCs and hybrid devices, industry experts expert tomorrow’s IT environment will comprise far less Windows-specific software.

Increasingly, users will look for self-service IT, freeing IT from day-to-day desktop IT administration. Instead users employees or their managers will be able to configure the user computing environment of their staff themselves, via an enterprise app store. here are Computer Weekly's top 10 PC and desktop stories of 2015:

1. What will office desktop computing look like in 2020?

Over the next five years, IT departments will increasingly support a highly heterogeneous computing environment. Gartner analyst Terrence Cosgrove notes in his report Mobility Is Having a Major Impact on IT Support: “The IT support organisation must evolve beyond the traditional service provider model toward a partnership with the end-user community. When users have more control over their devices and applications, the support models must adapt to this paradigm change.”

2. CIOs admit concern over SaaS management

Most organisations are running applications in the cloud, but IT managers are concerned they are losing control of the SaaS budget. The survey of 125 UK-based IT directors and CIOs from Vanson Bourne for Centrix Software, reported that nearly 90% of organisations have some sort of cloud-based application in use. Only 11% said that they have no applications running in the cloud.

3. Businesses need to equip staff with the tools to do the job

Workforces will become frustrated if they do not have the technology they need to deliver what their organisation wants. Companies are still handing out corporate PCs, with some issuing thin clients with a server-hosted virtual desktop – also commonly known as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) – that includes the same set of tools for everyone. A business computer, tablet or a smartphone is like a toolbox, and the applications are like the tools, each with a specific purpose.

4. How to free your business and staff with self-service

With increasing demand for IT flexibility – from users wanting to access IT on any device, anywhere, any time; and organisations wanting to consolidate for efficiency – online, cloud-based services are the way to go. This shift will not be welcomed by all. Some will feel the personal touch has been lost; others will miss being helped (or having the work done for them). In all cases, the organisation making the changes has to make sure the process is well delivered, well supported and well understood to be successful, and this typically means choosing the right tools, systems and suppliers.For consumers and employees alike it means a shift from long-established and well supported but often cumbersome ways of doing things, to an online, instant access and increasingly self-service model.

5. HP Inc lays the foundations for a digital future

Despite its personal systems business being affected by the decline in demand for PCs, Shane Wall, CTO of HP Inc, is confident it will bounce back. This will not necessarily come from competing by selling new revisions of PCs, laptops, tablets or hybrid devices. Rather, he predicts completely new ways of using a PC that cannot simply be copied and mass-produced by rival manufacturers.

6. The best desktop strategy: Forget the desktop

Before licensing and rolling out an updated operating system (OS), it may be time to revise your IT estate, says Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom. Windows 10 is not free to businesses, but is covered under volume licences supporting upgrades. Now is probably a good time to completely review where your organisation is with its user device strategy. As bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programmes have come into broader use, users are no longer necessarily using Windows-based devices as their main mobile appliance.

7. An introduction to the Microsoft Business Store

Normally,  universal apps are installed via the Windows Store, which is focused on consumers, limiting the appeal of the platform in a business context. Users can only log into the Windows Store with a personal Microsoft account. It is not possible for businesses to buy volume licences for Store apps and, if a user gets an app but leaves the organisation, the licence to the app goes with them. Microsoft is now fixing this with its new BusinessStore.

8. Welcome to Windows 10

Windows 10 could be the last update of Windows IT departments will need to make. The operating system brings back the Start Menu for desktop and laptop users, adds Cortana as a digital personal assistant and ramps up security.The OS represents a departure from the previous, Windows-centric view of the world often associated with Microsoft. Now the emphasis is on portability of experience, manageability and security.

9. Microsoft wins the PC argument for Windows 10

For large enterprises, Microsoft aims to ease the burden of large-scale PC upgrades – which involve significant acceptance testing, and wiping and reloading OS images – by offering easy upgrades on Windows 7 or later. And the same technology enables provisioning new machines by simply logging into Azure Active Directory. Microsoft promises to deliver feature updates regularly – just as websites and mobile apps providers do – rather than in bulky and infrequent service packs. The goal is to enable customers to get the latest features and security updates, but with flexibility for companies to choose a standardised testing interval to prepare and implement updates.

10.  Should businesses upgrade to Windows 10?

Windows 10 offers the prospect of a shared application architecture across all these devices, and a common storefront in the form of the Windows Store. Organisations adopting Windows 10 Enterprise edition, meanwhile, are promised an easier upgrade path than in the past, vastly improved mobile device management (MDM) capabilities, better security and simpler sign-on and authentication through the cloud-based Azure Active Directory.

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