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Post-PC era: Is 100% remote desktop virtualization even smart?

Last August, I sat at VMworld 2011 with 19,000 other IT literati and heard CEO Paul Maritz assure us that we were in the post-PC era. But are we really?

Certainly there isn’t much argument about how remote desktop virtualization increases worker productivity by giving them access on multiple platforms.  Furthermore, desktop virtualization reduces company costs and upkeep.  CIOs are definitely paying attention to the benefits of virtualization.

The main problem with this description is that it discounts the PC entirely and smacks of absolutism. CIOs live in the real world, and there are always differing use cases in every business. With judicious application, it’s possible to have your benefits of virtualization without damaging the productivity of some workers, especially around specialty-use cases and ergonomics.

Specialty-use cases come up when you have highly specialized software, as engineering or science professionals do. These highly technical workers have applications that simply don’t work, or work poorly, in a virtualized desktop environment. Overzealous rollout of a remote virtual desktop where the goal is 100% coverage creates an absolute — one that works counter to the company’s overall productivity.  Crippling your engineers in order to fulfill an unrealistic goal? Not good for the business. CIOs need to remember that achieving 90% to 98% coverage is fantastic, and that those stubborn last percentage points are desktop users who actually might be better off being left alone, post-PC era or not.

Smart CIOs are mindful of the physical well-being of their workforce. Everybody loves a lighter, thinner laptop, and everybody loves a sleek tablet device. However, for workers who are not highly mobile, smaller screens and slick, tiny keyboards are a recipe for eyestrain, backaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. CIOs need to make sure that the IT departments they run are aware of use cases and are not making one-size-fits-all decisions. Certainly, use cases cannot be allowed to get too complicated, but a few standard configurations based on role will make employees more productive and prevent long-term problems for their health and happiness.

What do you think? Is this really the “post-PC era”? Is 100% remote desktop virtualization adoption even feasible? Is it pointless to cut the cord for each and every worker? Is it possible to extract some benefits of virtualization without going all the way? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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