Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

Summary: In five years, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst sees the traditional desktop becoming obsolete.

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Vancouver, British Columbia—A running joke at this years LinuxCon is that “X is the year of the Linux desktop.” Jim Zemlin, head of the conference's sponsoring organization, The Linux Foundation, started it with his keynote in noting how often he'd made that prediction and how often he's been wrong. The current prediction, which I believe Linus Torvalds made last night was : “2031! The year of the Linux desktop.” Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, has another year in mind for the Linux desktop though: Never. Oh, and the Windows and Mac desktops? Get ready to say good-bye to them soon.

In an interview with me, Whitehurst told me that he believes that the “Fat client operating system [the traditional desktop] is becoming a legacy application.” What he meant by that isn't that your desktops are suddenly going to vaporize into puffs of smoke in 2016 like from some really lame disaster movie. No, his point is that the cost of maintaining and securing a desktop operating system is growing increasingly higher.

So, what he sees happening is that everyone, and it's not just Linux, “writing their functionality for the back engine. Why would anyone with all the different platforms—smartphones, tablets, etc.---and the costs of securing all of them want to spend money on that? The cost to manage and secure a fat client is ridiculous.”

So what will replace it? He sees several possibilities. In the short run, for businesses he sees Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) becoming increasing more important. Here, he sees Citrix, which has long provided Windows desktops via its VDI platform, continuing to be the major player. "It's Citrix's market to lose,” said Whitehurst.

Red Hat will also play a role in VDI as well. In 2012, Red Hat will be reintroducing ts Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments (SPICE)-based VDI. On the server side, SPICE depends on KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) for its horsepower. Don't think though that Red Hat plans on head-to-head competition with Citrix for tomorrow's VDI desktop. They don't.

Instead, Whitehurst said, “SPICE will be part of a packaged offering for those who want it.” He sees its market as being primary users who are already using Linux desktops, terminal applications, or Linux-based thin-clients. It's a great offerings, but as for using it to run say “20,000 Windows desktops?" No, that's Citrix's market.”

So what kind of desktop does he see the enterprise user moving to, since after all, there's only so much you can do with any tablet or smartphone? Whitehurst thinks it will probably be based on a KVM-based cloud and using a Web browser as its primary interface.

He added that he thinks Google's Chrome operating system looks promising and that he plans on trying out the Samung Chromebook himself sometime soon. You see, unlike many CEOs,Whitehurst is also a techie. His first exposure to Linux was running Slackware on his own. Today, he runs Fedora 15 as his desktop. He knows Linux. As Red Hat gets ready to become the first billion-dollar open-source company, it's clear he knows business. He knows the desktop. If he says the fat-client desktop is getting ready to become yesterday's news, I'm inclined to listen to him.

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Topics: Linux, CXO, Hardware, Open Source

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94 comments
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  • "thinks Googleâ??s Chrome operating system looks promising"

    Cannot wait to see what kinda eggs will be on his face when ChokingBook gets canned next year like WebOS today due to zero market interest.
    LBiege
    • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

      @LBiege Chrome is getting interest but the cost to convert to the platform is several hundred thousand over sticking with IE.

      The problem is that a lot of companies are invested in IE and Windows Technologies.

      My company looked at this approach and reasoned they couldn't justify it in this market so they made a Move to a newer IE.
      slickjim
      • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

        @Peter Perry
        I have seen this problem so often in the past, and I thought this IE lock-in was a thing of the past. Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and various other browsers have collectively just under 50% of web access usage, and testing websites and selecting technology that will allow all browsers to be used is very straightforward. However I have see companies that allow lazy or incompetent IT departments turn away between 25%-48% of potential customers and billions of dollars of revenue simply because they can'y be bothered to do their job properly. Also, by not bothering to do their homework when writing web applications, IT department bosses lock themselves into expensive lock-ins or re-writing or fixing of internal web applications because they didn't bother to spend 5 minutes selecting a portable scripting solution. The problem here is the tail wagging the dog, because of company IT directors who don't understand anything about IT and just take their subordinates' word for it when they say it can't be dome, or it is too expensive, when what they really mean is "I can't be bothered to do it", or "I am not competent to do it".

        The big savings with Chromebooks come from eliminating the very high desktop support and maintenance costs of Windows. You have to do this by either remove the desktops completely from selected people who will use server based web apps exclusively. A lot of information workers can make this change very painlessly and at little initial cost. For those who need Windows applications, Chromebooks + desktop virtualization can remove some of the maintenance overhead associated with Windows desktops. However this requires an IT department competent in servers rather than desktops, and many companies, particularly smaller ones, employ low quality IT staff who can do little more than provide desktop support.

        It should also be noted that not all desktops need to be replaced - you can put Chrome browsers on Windows desktops and access the same web apps in the same way as on Chromebooks - although the Windows desktop retains its high maintenance cost.

        Basically, there are huge savings to be made on Windows support, but the first step to achieving this is to switch to Chrome or a fully HTML5 compatible browser and make sure your web apps are too. A good way to do this is to test for both Chrome browser and the latest IE in your office. If it works for both then your application is HTML5 compatible.

        If your IT department is are not prepared to take this simple step, you can forget the savings and stick to your expensive Windows desktops, and your expensive Windows desktop support staff.
        Mah
        • We Linux-users have understood this trend for years and years...

          ...because the main line for IT is:

          - software becoming free
          - hardware becoming better and cheaper

          It's question about IT evolution and there is no place for Windows ecosystem and other Neanderthals.
          MacBroderick
      • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

        @Mah Except we live in the real world...
        happyharry_z
      • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

        @Peter Perry Chromebooks are a massive dud. Nobody, especially enterprise, wants a gimped, web only OS that comes on an overpriced netbook. They certainly don't want to put up with Google, who has no service or support. That's what's laughable about Google. They think they can sell to the enterprise with serving and supporting them. I've read tons of stories for managers that have stated trying to get Google to support products is impossible. Besides, a web browsing OS is completely useless.
        jhammackHTH
    • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

      @LBiege Yeah, that comment made me feel more secure choosing SUSE over RedHat. Sheesh.
      jgm@...
    • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

      @LBiege

      Yeah, like I want to do my work from a smartphone or tablet! It's thoughts like this that keep linux down!
      Rob.sharp
  • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

    The Desktop will never be obsolete but the OS will be replaced by the likes of embedded systems from MS, Linux / Google and Apple.
    slickjim
    • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

      @Peter Perry

      Now Peter, stop baiting the trolls with logic, you know that they can't handle that and will sputter and foam a the mouth!
      PollyProteus
  • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

    The only thing Whitehurst got right was the year of the
    Linux desktop!
    wizard57m-cnet
    • Never...

      @wizard57m@... : and date shared by Windows 8 tablet adoption.
      cosuna
      • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

        @cosuna What Windows 8 tablet adoption?
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

        @cosuna
        You say it as if Windows 8 is out already.
        ZackCDLVI
      • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

        @Zc456
        He also says it like everyone will buy one.
        ScorpioBlue
  • Get Real Folks. RedHat RHEV 3.0 is RedHot.

    KVM Dude.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • Get real yourself, Mr. Schmitz

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz * Your Linux Advocate
      Red Hat CEO's is just attempting to make Linux appear more relevant the it actually is.

      I suspect that you knew that already, and that you are attempting to put on " a brave face".

      :|
      Tim Cook
      • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

        @Mister Spock
        +1
        Ram U
      • What exactly is your experience level with RedHat?

        @Mister Spock
        Just curious.
        This whole Mr. Spock 'schtick' that you've adopted is silly. Try demonstrating some knowledge.
        Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
      • RE: Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

        @Mister Spock OUCH!...
        ItsTheBottomLine