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The zero-startup phenom: tablets and virtual desktops

by Jack Santos  |  April 9, 2013  |  2 Comments

There is another way to talk about the sudden world domination scenario of tablets and iPads, and that is in the context of end-user revolution.

Sure – we can argue that form factor (tablet) or multi-touch screens is the end of PC domination of IT solutions. (Today’s WSJ CIO Journal)

But the real reason is speed and ease of use beyond the GUI.  Specifically, the instant on/always on aspect of tablets.  Fundamentally, the world is saying “enough already!” with 2-10 minute startup times on PCs, and rapid degradation of performance as more software is piled on to your run of the mill desktop or laptop.  I was initially concerned that tablets (in particular iOS devices) would also suffer from app arthritis – the slow degradation of responsiveness and stability that we are all too familiar with in the PC world.  So far, reports of that have been minimal – due in no large part to Apple app store curation and Apple’s ruthless devotion to shutting down an app that is exhibiting poor behavior (get that Adobe?)

As my colleague Chris Wolf pointed out in another  Wall Street Journal article,   tablets aren’t the only game in town.  Virtual desktops can lead us down the road to “me”-centricity and fast boot/switch times – such as what many healthcare institutions are doing in the name of speed and medical error mitigation (in this case Seattle Children’s – which also spoke at last year’s Catalyst conference; this year’s conference is coming up – see below).

I believe desktop virtualization will be a factor (finally! It has been churning in the background for years).  But whether it will break out of the shadow of tablet mania remains to be seen.  Another data point?  the replacement of PC-based point of sales with tablet point of sales in many stores.   Desktop virtualization will be a force, but it may now be on the margins, or mainly tactical.  Remember 3270 screen scrapers?

That is not to say that those margins are not a significant part of the IT mission.  Desktops/laptops aren’t going away anytime soon. Even longer refresh times seem to be the future.  Ultrabooks, ssd based small footprint laptops, are in the mix, too.  Like desktop calculators…. desktop virtualization, and an ongoing PC/laptop footprint in ultrabook-like form factors will morph into a niche solution… that’s what the market is saying.

One of the many in-depth technical topics at Catalyst this year…


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Category: cloud  externalization  mobility  nexus  wireless  work-place  

Tags: consumerization  culture  mobility  wireless  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on The zero-startup phenom: tablets and virtual desktops

  1. BYOD+VDI says:

    With the variety of devices available and the trend toward BYOD in the workplace is making the need for device-agnostic platforms increasingly apparent. Virtual desktops really make that a reality. At my startup we use a system called and it’s really changed how we work. It’s close to achieving the “zero startup” time goal, but the real benefit is that I’m not tied to one machine. I’d love to go all tablet, but it’s not quite yet a practical form factor for daily work tasks like spreadsheets or PPTs.

  2. Jack Santos says:

    Great point, B! device independence/task stickiness is a plus for virtual desktops. If your are moving between multiple devices, it’s a boon! But that benefit may decrease as devices continue to be more personal — or transform to a “cloud backend”. As for spreadsheets and PPTs – I am in the same boat… which is why for heavy duty content creation, PCs are not going away anytime soon. Thanks!

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