As many of you know, we've recently done a deal with Fujitstu to refresh our desktop estate. We're going to have the latest Office, the latest Windows, and all of it will be delivered via the network to clever thin client terminals or thin spec notebooks. Considering we're presently struggling along with XP, this will be a bit of a leap from where we are presently.
I 'd imagine we'll have this new environment - or an incremental iteration of it - for maybe a decade. Perhaps a bit more. It takes that long for a desktop operating environment to get so long in the tooth that no matter what you do you can't keep it going any longer. And we'll keep it that long because the costs of getting a working desktop in the first place are so absurdly high that doing anything else is completely irresponsible.
Personally, I think it likely this is the last version of Windows anyone ever widely deploys, though.
The reason? I think they'll be fewer workloads that actually require a heavy deskop stack. Today, of course, we have all this legacy that's coupled to the desktop, but in a decade, I really doubt that will be the case. Most stuff will arrive via the browser.
Furthermore, its not impossible to imagine that they'll be ubiquitous wirless networking everywhere, even those difficult places outreach workers sometimes have to go. So we won't need a heavy desktop stack in order to make sure offline works.
And, in a decade, our security colleagues will no doubt have found clever ways to let us do all this without the fortress stuff they presently require of us.
Can you really imagine we'd need much more than a tablet-like device in such an enviornment? I can't.
Oh, I know there'll still be some occasions you'll need everything local, maybe developing apps for example, but by far the greatest marjority of our workers won't need that stuff.
The real question, I think, is what Microsoft will do to restore the value of Windows. In the past, their strategy has been to shift the operating system up the value chain, taking more specialised functionality from apps and embedding it in the base platform. They did that with Internet Explorer, for example. With messaging queueing and transaction services, and a whole pile of other things that were once separate apps.
That's obviously over because most of the action is now happening in the datacentre (or the cloud).
From a strategic point of view, if you're designing the future technology estate of a large organisation, that last thing it makes sense to do in this kind of context is build stuff that depends on a desktop stack. Furthermore, decoupling legacy from the desktop stack also has to be on the agenda, because you just can't count on that stack being relevent in 10 years time.
It feels funny, doesn't it, thinking about Windows in the context of it being irrelevent, after all these years we've relied on it. I guess it proves, again, that change is the only constant.