Citrix boss says future of PC is in the datacentre

The virtualised “desktop 2.0” will the idea that a PC needs to be a physical device, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton has predicted at the company’s well-attended iForum event in Edinburgh.

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The virtualised “desktop 2.0” will the idea that a PC needs to be a physical device, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton has predicted at the company’s well-attended iForum event in Edinburgh.

Templeton made the recently-launched XenDesktop the centrepiece of his presentation, describing the new desktop virtualisation software as “the most anticipated product in Citrix’s history.”

The XenDesktop stood out from rival software becasue it could virtualise each XP or Vista PC without the overhead that came from turning them into separate images, he said. Under Xen, a particular user’s PC was built from scratch each time they logged on using a unique configuration, and then calling in the necessary application and operating system components.

When logged off, that PC disappeared totally, allowing the resources to be recycled to other computing demands. The virtualised “PC” itself was in effect a brand new setup each time it was called upon.

“For the end user it’s like getting a brand new desktop every day,” he said. “This is not a thin client.”

Unlike the era of task workers stuck in front of dumb clients, the “desktop 2.0 PC” could perform exactly as would any other PC, including having high-end graphical capabilities if that was mandated for a user. And it would be ageless, unlike the power-user PCs that littered offices around the current PC world. “Desktop 1.0 is not only slow, it degrades over time.”

“Satisfying the user is going to be the most important dimension,” said Templeton. “[We have] a vision of the desktop provided as a service,” which he characterised as “DaaS” or “desktop as a service”.

Templeton admitted that the end of physical PCs would not happen overnight – companies had a heavy investment in millions of desktops on set deployment timescales – or that it would suit mobile employees, whom the company described as making up on average perhaps 15 percent of the PC workforce.

But the combined force of desktop virtualisation along the Xen model, coupled to perennial worries on PC security, would eventually move companies to embrace the change.

Xen – which Citrix acquired with its XenSource acquisition in October 2007 – is seen as the major rival to VMware for desktop deployments thanks mainly to Citrix’s established user base.

You can download an Express version of XenDesktop, which can support up to 10 PCs, free of charge.