by October 1, 2011 0 comments

There’s a flurry of mobile devices that are hitting the market place, and their growth is far more than those of desktops and even laptops. So much so that a lot of people now have shifted part of their work life on these devices. A lot of people nowadays for instance, use a tablet to read important documents, surf the web, do social networking, give presentations, and so on. They use smartphones for checking and responding to emails on the move, and other activities. This trend is only going to increase, with people wanting more and more functionality to be made available on their devices, given that desktops tie you down to one place, and laptops take time to open and load when you’re on the move.

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Desktops loosing ground

VMware has recognized this trend, and the company’s CEO Paul Maritz addressed the issue at their annual mega-conference, VMWorld 2011, held in Las Vegas in August. “Steve Jobs has said that we’re entering the post-PC era, and we agree with that”, he said. Whether to term it as post-PC or PC plus era may not be as important as the fact that PC isn’t the sole center of attraction anymore. There are other animals in the zoo, according to Maritz. Today, users hold many other devices in their hands, many of which are not owned by the organizations they work for. “As a result, we have to realize some important things have to happen”, he said.

Over the past 10-15 years, he said that the Windows desktop has played two important roles. One was that it was an interface to Windows and all its apps, features and functionality. While on the other, it was the mechanism used by the IT department to control and provide capabilities to the user, like installing apps, restricting menus, putting files, etc. Maritz was of the opinion that in a Post PC world, that second aspect of the desktop can’t belong to any one device, or even one OS. So we have to float away that other aspect of the desktop and find a different solution for it. “Three years ago, over 95% of devices connected to the Internet were PCs”, he said. Three years from now, that number will probably be less than 20%. More devices that connect to the Internet will not be Windows based PCs.

Tech to empower the new era

With the kind of scale in this era, new techniques have to be put in place for presenting and developing apps. HTML 5 for instance, promises to be very important because it could be a genuinely capable cross device way of writing applications.VMware started on this journey last year with the introduction of a set of technologies called Horizon, which aims to create a new capability to allow IT to provision people with capabilities, associate applications/information to people and not to devices.

VMware’s CTO, Steve Herrod further strengthened that belief by adding that we’ve come from a world of managing individual servers, and thinking about individual desktops that think about accessing apps on those servers. But now, we’re moving from individual servers to services. Likewise, traditionally, we think of using devices to access the apps, but moving forward, we have to think about people, and not the devices. Because it’s now about getting universal access to the work environment. We should be able to access our applications and data from anywhere. For that, a collection of different approaches has to be used to provide a uniform experience across devices. One of the techniques that Steve described was a virtual phone, or to use two phones in a single phone.

The virtual phone will live in the same physical phone, and its capabilities would be controlled by IT. No matter what you do on the personal phone, it won’t have any impact on the virtual phone (see box on VMware’s end-user computing products that make this possible).

VMware’s End-User Computing Products for Post-PC Era

Quite a few new products and projects were announced by VMware at VMworld 2011, which were relevant for users on the go. The second day keynote by VMware CTO Steve Herrod took the 19,000 attendees in the hall through demos of these products, as a way to reinforce the company CEO Paul Maritz’s message about “entering the Post PC era”. Here’s an overview of those products.

Project Octopus: If you’ve heard or used dropbox, then you’ll understand exactly what this product is all about. Project Octopus is a solution designed to enable access to your files and content from any device via the public or private cloud. The solution uses data sync technologies from VMware’s Zimbra and Mozy. All files can also be shared between colleagues both internally and externally to the organization. It can be integrated with other Vmware’s Horizon, AppBlast, and VMware view to allow an organization to create a private enterprise grade cloud service.

Project AppBlast: This is another special project announced at VMworld 2011, which will allow secure delivery of any application, be it mobile, enterprise, or Windows based, to any device that supports HTML 5. At VMworld, the VMware CTO, Steve Herrod demonstrated how AppBlast could be used to run Microsoft Excel on an iPad through a web browser.

Horizon and Horizon Mobile: A common broker for all apps you want to have access to, be it enterprise, Windows, SaaS based, or mobile apps. It currently supports Web and SaaS based apps and gives access to them across different devices. At VMWorld 2011, it was demonstrated to give access to various enterprise apps across a desktop, iPad, and an Android based phone. In fact, an extension of Horizon called Horizon Mobile creates a separate virtual workplace on Android based phones. So the knowledge worker can have both his personal and his workspace on the same device, wherein the latter is in control of the enterprise IT department. The feature is currently available on LG based Android phones, with Samsung tie-up having happened recently, and more to follow. In case the user misplaces his phone, the IT department can remotely remove the virtual workplace, thereby ensuring security of company data.
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ThinApp Factory: Sometimes, you want to run your application without the heavy footprint of the OS. This can be done using application virtualization, and ThinApp Factory is VMware’s answer to that. The solution packages any installable Windows application and packages it to run without having to be installed on a desktop OS. This can be great when you’re doing virtual desktop deployments.

VMware View 5.0: VMware announced availability of its latest desktop virtualization platform, called View 5.0. It has significant bandwidth improvements, works in high latency and low bandwidth environments significantly better than predecessors. Moreover, View clients are now available for just about every device one can think of. Plus, there’s integration with providers of VoIP and UC.

So what happens to the PC?

Just because there are so many mobile devices emerging, you can’t ignore the PC. There are still hundreds of millions of PC users, so we have to do a better job of allowing those people to get access to the apps they need. So we continue to be investing very heavily in our View Desktop virtualization product.

The author was hosted by VMware in Las Vegas

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