This eWEEK: Desktop Musings

This week's issue of eWEEK has me thinking about the desktop—about where it's been, where it's headed, and about what sorts of client devices are vying to knock our familiar desktops and notebooks off from their computing pedestals.

First, there's Cameron Sturdevant's review of Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3, and his accompanying commentary on the way that this sort of tool, while well-suited to its role, is beginning to look long in the tooth in the face of ongoing virtual desktop infrastructure advances.

However, as Cameron also points out, traditional desktop systems have quite a bit of life left in them, as the travails of vendors out to recreate the excitement around server virtualization in the virtual desktop space indicate.

As I see it, one of the biggest hurdles for VDI is the capital investment and new management processes required to host virtual desktops, relative to the low cost of putting a machine on a worker's desktop. For this reason, I've been keeping an eye on potential VDI-as-a-service options, the likes of which Chris Preimesberger discusses on our cover story this week.

For now, it's early days for Desktop as a Service. As Chris lays out in his story, the vendor roster involved in this brand of cloud computing reads very much like that for an on-premises VDI deployment.

It will be interesting to see whether Amazon makes a play for this corner of the cloud—a development that wouldn't surprise me, given the company's aggressive roll out of cloud services over the past several months.

Certainly, the foundations for such a service are in place, as I saw during the tests for my review of Tasktop 1.8. I tested this product on both my production Linux desktop, as well as on a Windows session set up by Tasktop Technologies and hosted from an Amazon EC2 instance. I was able to connect to the virtual machine from the RDP client on my desktop, and the performance was quite good.

Looking toward the client contenders of the future, we have reviews this week from Nick Kolakowski and Clint Boulton of two of the most recent computing devices powered by Google's Android mobile operating system—Dell's Streak 7 inch tablet, and Samsung's Nexus S smartphone.

To be sure, the “will your mobile device replace your laptop?” story is far from new, but the pickup in mobile platform development we've seen with Apple's iOS and Google's Android shows no sign of showing down, with HP prepping new WebOS-based devices, and RIM preparing to launch a QNX-based tablet of its own.

And as if the crowd of mobile contenders weren't congested enough already, Nokia and Microsoft have embarked on a major new mobile partnership of their own, a deal that P. J. Connolly sizes up in his column this week.

With all the action taking place in the mobile, cloud and virtualization arenas, 2011 is sure to be an exciting and challenging year.