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GCN : December 2012
16 GCN DECEMBER 2012 • GCN.COM THEPCASWEKNOWIT is breaking apart, targeting di erent user bases. That means interacting with a client machine will soon mean di er- ent things to di erent types of government employees. These changes have been underway for a while, but several devel- opments will intersect in 2013 to force agencies to make some clear choices. Here are eight reasons why. 1. The end of Windows XP and Office 2003 -- Across all industries Windows XP has dropped to just 25 percent of the PCs in use today. But at government sites, Windows XP is still the most com- mon operating system. Most Microsoft products have three different phases: the initial regular support phase, a phase of extended support when the product is no longer offered, and retirement when even extended support is no longer available. Windows XP and Office 2003 will move into full retirement in April 2014. Lack- ing future security updates, government sites will be forced to make plans in 2013 to re- place Windows XP machines. 2. The (slow) rise of Win- dows 8 -- As Windows XP fades away, it s likely that some agencies will make only a slow, conservative jump to Windows 7, much less to Windows 8. But Windows 8 is an enticing option because it can run not only on PCs but also on select tablets and convertible devices with keyboards. It s also easy for organizations to offer Win- dows 8 as a virtual desktop, ca- pable of loading from a server and being displayed on many types of devices. As people start planning for an even- tual migration to Windows 8, they will start to realize how many other client choices are available. For those who have to run their apps on an older Windows OS, they might find themselves investigating programs such as VMware ThinApp or a Citrix Metaframe server, which can support legacy applications within the cloud and virtually fool them into running independently on select client machines. 3. App stores -- Many people first became familiar with app stores through their smart- phones. Such stores take a different approach to how soft- ware is traditionally distributed and updated. The interaction for loading the software is initiated by the end user. It s a way to get end users onto a common set of software apps and to offer software support for tablets and other devices beyond regular PCs. 4. Tablets & smartphones -- As more organizations set up virtual private net- works (VPNs), tablets and smartphones will become a larger part of the government landscape. They are a growing alternative to the PC because they support keyboards and allow touch screen operations, and they can plug into moni- tors and other devices to create near-PC levels of productivity. 5. iPads and iPhones -- These devices technically belong with the group above. But Apple products require a separate conversation. Since they have a different OS, it can be more difficult to enforce some types of use compliance. But Apple products are relentless in their growth and their user base can be very loyal. Thus, Apple iPhones have to be part of the conversation when talking about choices beyond tradi- tional PCs. 6. Virtual desktops -- Rather than purchasing dedicated client-side applications for each device, some offices are choosing virtual PC solutions, giving everyone the same view and user experience, no matter what device they re using. Many agencies also are exploring offering software as a service (SaaS) and increas- ing their participation in cloud computing. There also are solutions that allow mul- tiple employees to share one centrally located computer but the users view only their own desktop. 7. Desk phones as comput- ers -- As Voice-over-IP systems have proliferated, so too have new devices capable of offer- ing many computer functions within a desktop telephone. On the flip side, VoIP functions can be integrated into PCs so desk phones can be elimi- nated. Either way, the look and feel of the desk phone is starting to change. 8. Specialized heads-up systems -- The military has for years had special wearable systems that can be viewed through head-mounted dis- plays. But these systems have been expensive and bulky and often didn t include robust net- working capability. But with better network connections available -- and with solutions such as Google Goggles on the horizon -- the PC for some people may very well be a device worn on one s belt, and viewed through special glasses. No matter which direction your organization chooses, 2013 is very likely to be a year when important decisions will be made about the client machines your agency will use. Be sure to play an active role in these choices. • --- Shawn McCarthy is research director for IDC Government Insights. 2013: A YEAR OF RECKONING FOR GOVERNMENT PC USERS INTERNAUT BY SHAWN McCARTHY Migration to new devices will happen whether most organizations like it or not, so it's best to actively investigate the alternatives and make informed choices.