Good-bye XP, desktop virtualization is the answer

Today is the day to officially say good-by to XP -- at least in terms of the manufacturer shipping it to OEMs and retailers.

(XP, is still available in all sorts of ways.) But June 30 really marks the day where it is time for corporate America to start thinking about what it wants desktop computing to look like in the coming years. In other words -- isn't it time to start thinking about desktop virtualization. Let's put it this way -- we all know what no one wants. No one wants fat, bloated operating systems that take forever to load, require endless patches that continuously break mission-critical applications (and are still impossible to secure) and cost a fortune (hardware, licenses, maintenance).

Lots of speculation exists on how to get ourselves out of the bloat Windows created. Some look to alternatives like Linux and Macs, which still put the power on the user's machine. In Linux's case, the endless patch/security issue could be solved by making the code transparent and peer reviewed. Or not. Open doesn't necessarily mean good -- though it at least does allow corporations to modify code to their needs so long as they follow the original code's license requirements (which usually means sharing). The Mac may have its advantages over Windows for now in terms of speed, application and OS integration. But Apple and Microsoft follow the same basic model of having lots of hardware at the user's site, with proprietary licensed applications running on a particular OS.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley is using today's June 30 death-of-XP date to postulate about what she believes is a super-secret project named Midori, which she says is a version of Microsoft's Singularity OS. Singularity is a Microsoft research project for a new operating system created from the getgo, without being hamstrung with backward compatibility with every Windows app and driver ever invented.

Could be something in there. But is the world really waiting on Microsoft to bring us yet another operating system? Not likely. Looking into the future from where we stand today, desktop virtualization seems to be the answer for the corporate world, with some form of cloud computing being the answer for the consumer crowd. When the machine becomes just an end point terminal, the operating system as we have known it goes away. There's hardly any disk to operate as all apps and data exist in the cloud, with the user pulling in services needed from anywhere they reside (corporate servers, Google servers, Microsoft Live servers, your insurance company's servers and so on). Less hardware, less licenses should equal less cost. (Oh, IT will still need a mongo budget -- but it will spend its cash on projects other than shoring up the client).

Analyst Judith Hurwitz is even predicting that in the next year desktop virtualization will experience a massive explosion -- in much the same way server virtualization exploded in the 2006-2007 time frame. She offers three reasons for her prediction -- the escalating costs of the desktop PC, the fact that a full PC is overkill for most corporate needs, securing the desktop has become untenable and sophisticated desktop virtualization will be hitting the market en masse.

Blogger Tyson Kopczynski's says it all in a call-to-arms post called Death to all desktops:

"I can understand that desktop computing made sense in 2000. But the year is now 2008. Other options have been on the table for years now, and it's depressing to see that IT organizations are moving at a snail's pace to adopt and drive innovation. Instead, it seems like they are trying desperately to hold on to the desktop model. Heck, even Microsoft seems to be doing the same (Windows 7 and all of the other infrastructure applications targeted towards desktop management)."

Windows 7 is now expected to ship in 2010. No one expects Microsoft to create another Windows "mistake" (i.e. Vista). but the death of XP and the soon-to-be-launched Windows 7 also signals a time for corporations to start investigating desktop alternatives.

Go to the Microsoft Subnet home page for more news, blogs, podcasts. Microsoft rolls out new IBM HPC serversAll hail Hyper-V: the hypervisor finally, officially arrivesOnly you can prevent SQL injection attacks, Microsoft Security says20 great Windows open source projects you should get to knowSix free security tools you shouldn't live without

More Microsoft Subnet blog posts:

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)