Changing work styles demand multi-OS devices

Shifting corporate patterns where more consumer devices with various operating systems enter workspace call for computers with more than one platform, insiders say.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

IT consumerization is changing the corporate environment with various operating systems (OSes) and devices entering the enterprise space. This, in turn, is spurring the concept of having multiple OSes on a single device, regardless of the hardware these systems run on, insiders stated.

Yaj Malik, area vice president for Southeast Asia at Citrix Systems, said while Microsoft's Windows OS remains an integral element in the traditional desktop setup, the proliferation and evolution of smart computing devices is creating new work styles in enterprises. There is an increased demand from today's mobile and IT-savvy employees to easily access work files from their consumer devices, he added.

Citing a company survey conducted in July, the executive pointed out in his e-mail that 92 percent of the 700 CIOs polled across four continents said they were aware their employees were using personal devices for work-related tasks. This trend will grow even more apparent as the younger generation of employees--dubbed "Generation Virtual"--become increasingly dissatisfied with their company-provided devices due to the "prohibitive restrictions", resulting in reduced productivity and stifled creativity in the workplace, he stated.

"Citrix believes that it is timely for organizations to seek a solution that will enable both employers and employees to easily and securely access [company information] and share any type of content, regardless of the OS and device," Malik said.

"The adoption of desktop virtualization is the way forward to enable multiple OSes…allowing corporate applications to be freed from their traditional physical OS confines."

The Citrix executive's views were echoed by Jan-Jaap Jager, vice president and Asia-Pacific general manager at Parallels. In an e-mail, he told ZDNet Asia that "now is the time" for enterprises to proactively enable multiple OSes on employee desktops to better meet end-user needs. He cited an internal study that revealed 53 percent of "knowledge workers" pointed to a Mac running Windows apps without rebooting, as the most useful computer for work.

Jager also pointed to desktop virtualization as a "great way" for running multiple systems on a single device as it gives users the freedom to pick the hardware and OS that they want to use while providing access to corporate computing resources that may not work with that particular OS. He added that most of today's desktops are well equipped to handle additional OSes given their abundant disk storage and memory.

"Empowering employees with Macs and desktop virtualization to run other OSes such as Windows, Chrome, etc., has additional benefits as they can now instantly use any OS and application they need on one computer to be more productive," he said.

Deployment challenges
That said, Jager pointed out that standard enterprise IT challenges in deploying multiple OSes on a desktop include "licensing compliance, change management and security".

Microsoft Asia-Pacific COO Andrew Pickup weighed in, noting that running multiple OSes on consumer devices bring challenges to IT depending on the method of delivery and virtualization technology used. For example, setting up the infrastructure--whether through virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or sessions--to deliver centralized desktops can be "complex and expensive", and the user experience is dependent on network capabilities.

Alternatively, the IT team could choose to run multiple OSes locally on the client device to reduce the dependency of the user experience on the network, he stated. However, this deployment would require a higher specification device, which adds to implementation costs and would bring about a steeper learning curve for users.

Furthermore, in most cases, using a client hypervisor would require IT to reinstall the existing OS in order for the hypervisor to work and most users would not want them to tinker so heavily on their personal devices, Pickup pointed out.

"One size does not fit all and IT should choose the best technology to solve business needs," he stressed.

Cross-platform apps more important than multi-OS devices
The Microsoft executive also said that with the exception of "certain narrow business scenarios which might warrant multiple desktop variants", the vast majority of organizations prefer simplicity and efficiency over the complexity of delivering and managing multiple operating systems.

To that end, the availability of apps optimized for different platforms may better meet end-user's needs than providing OS alternatives, he suggested, noting that Microsoft offers desktop virtualization products as "choice is critical" for customers.

"We understand that people want a compelling and productive [application] experience regardless of the OS or device they are running. While we will always focus on being first and best on the Windows platform, we are also committed to delivering best-in-class experiences on other platforms," he said.

The Office for Mac app is a good example of this, Pickup noted. He said the software is "one of the best-selling apps for Apple computers" and as iPhones, iPads and Android-based devices become increasingly important in people's lives, the software giant is looking at how it can extend the Office product to these users.

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