As we wrap up 2022 and our third year dominated by remote work, I'm having lots of conversations with customers and vendors alike about their plans for the future of end-user computing, or EUC.
The discussion often goes beyond just supporting remote work with desktop virtualization or dealing with the influx of different endpoint devices that users bring to the table. Certainly, desktop virtualization has a critical position in most organizations' plans; but, with all the disruption in the VDI and desktop as a service (DaaS) space -- both Citrix and VMware are going through changes and have taken a back seat to Microsoft -- other options are presenting themselves, too.
This is in addition to other trends that are capturing interest, such as PC as a service (PCaaS) and -- believe it or not -- device consolidation around the smartphone. With all this in mind, I wanted to share a few thoughts around endpoint devices that are top of mind as we enter 2023.
Remote desktop endpoints
With all the focus on remote work via VDI or DaaS, organizations need to pay proper attention to the endpoints. On one hand, organizations want to give their users freedom of choice for devices to improve employee satisfaction and retention, or even to attract new employees. On the other hand, IT would love to deliver a "dumb" device that doesn't increase the security footprint of the user.
How can these two desires jibe with each other? Thin clients still have a place in the usual situations -- kiosks, transient work locations, manufacturing, warehousing, etc. -- but what user is going to say "I'd like an IGEL" when they could've had a MacBook Pro?
Of course, there are more than just remote desktop endpoints out there. PCs are still a huge enterprise market, but how is it being affected by remote work? I have many questions that I'm excited to get to the bottom of:
- Are organizations giving their users a choice in devices?
- What is the mix of corporate-owned or user-owned devices?
- If you're using desktop virtualization, what kind of endpoints are you supporting, and in which use cases?
- Thin clients?
- Repurposed PCs?
- Corporate-managed devices?
- Unmanaged devices (zero trust)?
- How are those devices being managed, or are they being managed at all?
PC as a service
On the other hand, there's PC as a service. This is sometimes called device as a service, but we already have a DaaS in EUC, so I'll stick with PCaaS for now. Big-name PC makers are putting their weight behind these services. HP, Dell and Lenovo each have a product that lets you pay a monthly fee for a service that includes PC and laptop hardware, support and refreshes.
We've seen great interest in the service approach to device lifecycles and management, with nearly 90% of organizations considering PCaaS a strategic or very strategic component of their 2022 and 2023 endpoint plans (Figure 1).
The thought of shifting these capital expenditures and IT resource costs to an all-in-one operational expense is intriguing, but there are also questions that remain about these services:
- How are Windows and Office licensing handled?
- How are these devices managed? Via Intune, SCCM, a proprietary first-party platform, through BYOD controls or via some other method?
- Where does the manufacturer management stop and your in-house management begin?
- How would supply chain issues affect your subscription, rollout and repairs?
- Do organizations prioritize this over cloud-based desktops from Amazon, Microsoft and others?
Device consolidation for business endpoints
Remember the nirvana phone? It's a concept that Citrix invented back in 2010 to describe a smartphone that could double as a desktop form factor endpoint and remote desktop client. The term even has a Wikipedia page created by Citrix's Chris Fleck. Though the concept never caught on, there have been many attempts at creating a "dockable" phone that can be the one-size-fits-all endpoint for every user.
The upside is distinct. Having one modern device per user, as opposed to two or three devices, limits the security attack surface of an organization while also reducing the number of devices and the IT resources -- including personnel, infrastructure and services -- needed to manage them. But 13 years ago, the devices weren't that powerful and mobile device management was just coming into existence. Lack of standardization on devices, apps, cables and peripheral support, coupled with an overall sentiment of "I just want my phone to be my phone and my computer to be my computer" meant that the idea fizzled out.
Interestingly, I've found some research that was done before I arrived at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group that indicates organizations have a renewed interest in device consolidation (Figure 2).
Of the 378 respondents to the "End-User Computing Trends" survey, 90% of respondents said they'd be interested in an option that employs a user's smartphone as a potential replacement for a full-featured laptop/desktop via a docking station.
Clearly, this needs to be explored more, since the devices have never been more capable or more manageable.
My 2023 is starting off with a huge focus on endpoints, and I've got lots of research in mind. If you have thoughts on the direction I should take it, or areas that need more exploration, be sure to let me know. You can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn or even Mastodon.
Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.