The PC Counterrevolution

By Lyons, Daniel | Newsweek, May 10, 2010 | Go to article overview

The PC Counterrevolution


Lyons, Daniel, Newsweek


Byline: Daniel Lyons

All that freedom has created chaos.

We're now three decades into the personal-computer revolution, and you'd think that by this point these devices would be as easy to operate as a toaster. Yet think about how much trouble it is to use a PC: the weird freezes and glitches and crashes, the shutting down and waiting for the thing to boot back up, the hassles connecting to printers and networks. It's nuts.

Pity the poor folks who work in corporate IT departments, managing hundreds or even thousands of these flaky devices across a company. Keeping a fleet of PCs updated and running smoothly is a chore. And in addition to the official applications that the company distributes to its employees, there are loads of other little programs that people have downloaded on their own. "Some companies have 5,000 or 10,000 applications in their environment," says Gavriella Schuster, general manager of Windows products at Microsoft.

Now some companies are overhauling their computer systems in an attempt to gain more control. "Desktop virtualization" is the name for this approach, and basically it means that instead of installing a bunch of programs on each desktop, you run everything on servers in the data center and let individuals pull down the applications they need.

To users, the experience feels the same. Better yet, no matter where you are, whether at home or on the road or in the office, you can connect to the data center and pull up all of your files. For the IT department, virtualization reduces the headache of managing the system. Desktop virtualization "has become a big deal over the past 18 months because organizations realize that they've reached the limits of the infrastructure as they have it today," Schuster says.

Microsoft is promoting virtualization to customers, estimating that companies save an average of $81 per desktop per year by adopting a virtualized system. There's some irony here, since Microsoft is the company that started this whole mess, with Bill Gates and his vision of "a computer on every desk."

The move to a more centralized computing is in many ways a return to how things used to be in the age of mainframes, when computing took place back in the data center, and the thing on your desk was just a dumb terminal. …

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