In the last few months it seems that the whole conversation around Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has shifted exclusively to smartphones. When the subject of BYOD was first broached, the idea was that organizations could just pay a regular stipend to their users, who would then use it to select the laptop of their choice and bring it to work where (magic happens here) they could access their corporate apps and data. Cynics quickly pointed out that these programs were championed by employees who resented having a Windows PC foisted on them, and these were really Bring Your Own Mac programs by any other name.
The IT department shuddered in fear at the BYOD proposition, since it came with the expectation that IT would have to deliver a productive and reliable work environment on a diverse range of hardware and operation systems, especially on systems that they do not own or maintain. Add this to the legal questions over whether protected data could be stored on devices not owned by the corporation, and the fact that the majority of employees could simply pocket the stipend and drag their ancient under powered laptop to work and expect IT to make it perform, and you get the reason that most BYOD programs for computers turned into “well, if you want to bring your own laptop you can, but we can’t support you much and we’re not going to pay you to do it.” This suited the Mac-loving executive just fine, since he can afford to buy his own Mac anyway, and so BYOD programs became a niche use case in many enterprises for users who are willing to pay for those devices out of their own pockets.
The obvious solution for safely delivering a Windows desktop and applications onto a device owned by someone else appears to be desktop virtualization. Datacenter-hosted Windows desktop virtualization comes in two forms: Session Virtualization (aka Terminal Server aka Terminal Services, sometimes enhanced with Citrix XenApp) and its less-frequently-deployed, more expensive but simpler cousin, VDI. Both provide a way to securely deliver Windows applications onto all manner of BYO devices, including Macs, PCs and tablets, with the security and privacy advantages that the app runs in the datacenter and only the display is remoted, with the result that sensitive data is never transferred directly to the endpoint. The downside of remote display is that the user must always have a good network or Internet connection, and it also requires some significant server and license investments. Some people prefer the experience of having the application running locally and there are also endpoint-hosted desktop virtualization solutions which overcome these objections, but these solutions require the laptop to be a fairly powerful device. In addition, when Microsoft released an acceptable Mac edition of their Office suite many Mac owners claimed they could work just fine with native apps, and so desktop virtualization as a solution for BYOD lost its shine.
SEE ALSO: Take BYOD to the next level: BYOX
With all this in mind it becomes clear why the BYOD conversation has shifted to concentrate on smartphones and, to a lesser extent, tablets. This change in focus has brought Mobile Application Management (MAM) and Mobile Information Management (MIM) technologies to the fore, since they provide strict isolation of corporate and personal worlds so that corporate data is protected and secured without interfering with the user’s ownership of their device.
So is that it for Windows desktops in a BYOD model? Not necessarily. With Windows 8 and Surface devices in the wild, people are now buying Windows 8 devices outside of corporate boundaries and wanting to use them for both work and play. And let us not forget that Desktop Virtualization continues to see increased adoption because it brings safe, instant access to corporate Windows apps with little or no device preparation and lends itself well to a Corporately Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) model where the corporation buys and owns the device but the employee maintains it. As devices become simpler and ownership of a device requires fewer technical skills COPE is increasingly attractive and, used in conjunction with desktop virtualization, gives employees the sense of a high degree of “ownership” of their device.
How does your enterprise embrace the BYOD movement?