By 2006, only 45% of
corporate users will count a traditional desktop as their primary
information device, according to META Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: METG).
Another 40% will primarily use a notebook or tablet PC, with the
final 15% focusing on thin-client or other information appliances
(e.g., custom device, handheld). A key factor is the increasing
percentage of users who will be equipped with multiple devices
over and above the current combination of a PC and a personal
information/communication device (e.g., handheld, cell phone).

“By 2007, the average user will interact regularly with at least
four distinct computing devices — a personal home PC, smart
digital entertainment system, corporate computer, and mobile
information device,” said Steve Kleynhans, vice president with
META Group’s Technology Research Services. “This multiplicity of
devices will force software vendors to focus on information
synchronization as well as ‘thinning’ or ‘roaming’ applications
to enable users to access their information independent of the
device they are using.”

Device selection needs to be matched to user job requirements,
including information access and mobile needs to ensure that full
value is obtained from end-user platform investments. Corporate
IT planners must be aware of the alternatives coming into the
market for servicing end users and make selections appropriate to
the needs of the user base. This will require increased due
diligence to gain an appropriate understanding and develop new
technical skills. New device options will not only help IT
organizations further trim operations costs, but also provide
additional value in the form of improved information

Although light and convenient, current-state tablet PCs (without
an integrated keyboard) are not functional enough for most office
users as their only computing device. Improved form factors,
coupled with declines in the cost of digitizers and a growing
number of digital ink- and pen-enabled applications, will bring
the tablet to the mainstream by 2006 — one-third of all
corporate notebooks will include tablet capabilities. Closely
related to the tablet PC are smart display devices, which enable
users to wirelessly access their PCs using WinXP’s remote desktop
facility. Although Microsoft has discontinued further development
on the current consumer-focused smart displays, we expect that
the technology could reappear in the corporate environment.

“There is an opportunity in the corporate space, where 60% of
information workers are ‘corridor warriors’ that roam from
meeting to meeting, to provide users with access to basic
information (e.g., e-mail, instant messaging, Web browsing) and
note-taking capabilities while attending meetings on premises,”
said Kleynhans. “The devices could even be shared among users or
possibly kept in meeting rooms. Any costs should be outweighed by
the increase in meeting productivity for most knowledge workers.”

Blade computers initially emerged as a way to make compact
scalable servers by combining numerous low-cost self-contained
PCs within a single chassis. This enabled the systems to share
infrastructure such as power supplies, network and storage
interconnects, and consoles. PC manufacturers have now begun to
move these systems beyond the server and into the end-user tier
by assigning individual blades to users who access the blade
using a thin-client device. Most of the administrative benefit
and potential cost savings of blades come from designing a truly
roaming environment. However, the effort involved and the
backlash from users unwilling to succumb to a locked-down PC
environment are substantial, making this option appropriate only
for some groups.

“Blades will likely be used to augment traditional computing
platforms as a means of delivering specific applications that may
require alternative OSs (e.g., Linux) or dedicated processing
power (e.g., real-time processing),” said Kleynhans. “Blades will
become a commonplace solution implemented primarily in the same
places that Citrix/Windows Terminal Server (WTS) solutions are
currently applied. Blades will remain a niche product — by 2006,
blades will replace traditional PC form factors for roughly only
10% of users.”