ZDNet's Ed Bott recently pointed out how -- a decade ago -- people predicted the death of the PC, only for events to show that the desktop PC was still alive and well. That's true. And the PC will live on for now. But I'd argue that what's under the hood is transforming from a user and PC-centric operating system to a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS), cloud-based model.
Microsoft is giving up on Windows on the PC. In its place, Microsoft is rolling out its Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). The Windows Virtual Desktop client is available across Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, and HTML 5. In other words, if you have a browser and a PC, you'll be able to run Windows as a DaaS.
Microsoft is promoting this not just as a Windows desktop alternative, but as a path forward for die-hard Windows 7 users. As Brad Anderson, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365 wrote:
"With the end of extended support for Windows 7 coming in January 2020, we also understand some customers need to continue to support Windows 7 legacy applications as they migrate to Windows 10. To support this need, you can use Windows Virtual Desktop to virtualize Windows 7 desktops with free Extended Security Updates (ESU) until January 2023."
If you're really, really stuck on Windows 7 and have a small business, this may be your best path forward. As Bott observed in a recent article, and as I've found with my small business buddies who won't give up on Windows 7, there's no easy way to buy ESU patches even if you're willing to pay for them.
It's clear as crystal. Microsoft sees the future of Windows on the cloud, not on the desktop. For now, its virtual desktops are aimed for business users, but I have no doubt it'll be pushing WVD for consumers soon enough.
In the meantime, Microsoft is exerting ever more control over your existing desktop. For example, users recently discovered they have no choice but to view small banner ads in the Windows 10 Mail and Calendar UWP app for Windows 10. When asked about this built-in spam, Microsoft replied:
"The ads within the app itself will be displayed regardless of which email address you use it with. It is not removable."
Great. Just great.
So, yes, the desktop PC and its portable laptop sibling will be with us forever. While most people can get back with a smartphone or a tablet, people who do work will always need a pointer, a keyboard, and a decent-sized display. Microsoft, which made its fortune with the PC, is taking us back to the 70s mainframe/client desktop model.
Now, I'm OK with that to a degree. I am, after all, a big Chromebook supporter. But there are times I want to be in control of my desktop.
So, what are my options? There's always Macs, but I'm not much of a Mac fan. And, as I think everyone knows, with the Mac Pro's prices ranging from $6,000 to $52,000, Macs aren't cheap. Sure, MacBooks are more affordable, with the latest MacBook Air starting at $1,099, but that's still not cheap.
Then there's Linux. I use Linux all the time. I recommend you try one of the major end-user friendly distros such as Mint or Ubuntu. But even Linus Torvalds thinks the Linux desktop's future lies more with Android and Chrome OS than it does on traditional desktops. That said, Linux desktop developers are finally working on its fragmentation problem.
It's my hope that Linux can finally become a real alternative desktop choice. Soon, it will be the only affordable true desktop available.