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There is no next big thing

What’s the next big thing in end-user computing?

It’s a question anyone who works in the field has likely asked themselves over the past few years. But it’s not the right question to be asking.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) carried the “next big thing” torch for the longest time. Cost and scalability issues prevented widespread adoption in its early days, and by the time vendors figured those aspects out, a new roadblock emerged: mobility. At first, people thought VDI and mobility would be a match made in heaven; IT could use an established technology to deliver enterprise-ready Windows desktops to smartphones and tablets. It soon became clear the VDI user experience on mobile devices was not up to par. And in the mobile era, user experience trumps all.

More recently, we’ve seen the market shift focus from desktops to applications, as Microsoft and Citrix’s new strategy exemplifies. The longtime partners announced in August that Microsoft will discontinue its cloud application delivery service, Azure RemoteApp, and instead make Citrix XenApp available through Azure. This approach raises a whole new set of questions, however. Mainly, if Microsoft is willing to cede that market to Citrix, does it mean application delivery really isn’t the future?

No, it doesn’t mean that. It means there are so many ways to put applications in users’ hands these days that vendors have to be selective. If you’re an IT pro who needs to deliver and deploy applications, consider your options: physical desktops, desktop virtualization, application virtualization, desktops as a service, applications as a service, application layering, workspaces, software as a service (SaaS), web apps, native mobile apps, hybrid mobile apps, app refactoring and virtual mobile infrastructure. No vendor—not even one as big as Microsoft—has the resources to play in all of these sandboxes.

All of those technologies have valid uses. As a result, end-user computing is becoming more heterogeneous. It’s not uncommon for modern knowledge workers to have laptops with a combination of native Windows applications, SaaS apps and maybe a virtualized app or two, plus mobile devices with native mobile apps and SaaS apps that they access through an enterprise app store, workspace or other portal.

There is no next big thing in end-user computing. End-user computing itself—this combination of technologies, intelligently managed to give employees the tools they need when and where they need them—is the next big thing.

This post originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of the Modern Mobility e-zine.