Windows 11 and Microsoft365 is Digital Workspace+. A Digital Workspace is an aggregation of multiple tools and services into a single pane. MS have just accomplished this with a prettier OS and VDI for everyone.
A journey of realisation
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post stating that VDI does not equal a digital workspace. I stand by that, as it was correct when I wrote it. Since then however, Microsoft has made some pretty fundamental announcements, and I think these change the equation.
Here’s why I’ve changed my mind:
A Digital Workspace can be described very easily: It’s a single point of aggregation of all a user’s IT services, bound together with a single identity. Whether that user needs a SaaS app, a workflow or a full VDI session, it should all be there with no additional authentication overhead for the user. It may include Unified Endpoint Management (UEM), a VDI solution or powerful analytics, but while they are nice to have (and critically important for most enterprises), they are simply additional parts of a Digital Workspace.
What Microsoft has done over the past month or so is to leverage two key solutions to redefine a new type of workspace – the Personal Workspace.
Think about the Personal Workspace at Digital Workspace+. It offers the same capabilities as a traditional Digital Workspace, but also allows more flexibility and personalisation. Let’s explore why and how.
Windows has never been about making it ‘easy’. Too much focus has been put on emphasising the Windows platform itself, with lots of ‘Hey look at this!’ mechanics going on. While Windows was such a key part of Microsoft, that sort of made sense. But now Microsoft is all about Azure, it can afford to remake Windows into something a bit different, to shrink its role while at the same time making it much more relevant for the world we all now live in.
The Windows user journey has always sucked too. There were too many non-intuitive menus and icons. The interface formerly known as ‘Metro’ was an awful beast that stayed around at least 8 years too long. With most iterations of Windows, a lot of time was spent by users and admins trying to undo some of these mistakes. In my experience, a lot of users are still nostalgic for the look and feel of Windows 95!
Windows 11 has changed all that, mainly by removing a lot of the UI ‘bloat’ of Windows 10. Its focus on putting everything the user needs at their fingertips is a breath of fresh air. The icons are easier on the eye, human feedback is more present than ever, and everything is arranged far more neatly, whether that’s a web browser or a productivity app. From what I’ve seen so far, the number of clicks needed just to get something done has been reduced. Here we have, at last, a minimal just-enough interface that qualifies as a Digital Workspace.
It may seem like a small thing, but Windows 11 looks so much ‘cleaner’ than Windows 10. I’m not going to go into the fact that Windows 11 looks like a fatter version of ChromeOS here. The fact is that Microsoft has done what Microsoft does best: it’s seen something better in the market and emulated it.
Another key feature of a Digital Workspace is that it’s a cloud-based service which places few requirements on the end user. There’s been much merriment of the past couple of weeks in the EUC industry, as Microsoft’s Windows365 announcement looked like it was introducing VDI to the world for the first time even though there are probably 10s of millions of seats of Citrix, VMware and other VDI vendors’ products around, and there have been for at the past 15 years or so.
Windows365 does do something different though. It uses Microsoft’s huge heft to get VDI and the concept of Windows-in-the-cloud to the masses. It also promises to make it very simple to administer and use. The big argument (and one that I used before) was that Windows was simply a huge waste of resources when it comes to offering a Digital Workspace service to users. It’s always been complicated to use and is expensive to host. If MS are going to (eventually) offer Windows 11 on a managed cloud desktop for a fixed price, and if that price is competitive, then a lot of that argument is neutralised.
What about this idea of a ‘Personal Workspace’ then?
If Microsoft have truly created a simplified Windows desktop, that’s cloud based, cost effective and dedicated, then the possibilities are much more compelling than just a simple Digital Workspace. All enterprise applications will be available, whether SaaS or locally installed. The desktop will follow you around to multiple devices, irrespective of the OS, location or network. Any changes you make will persist. All the data you work on will be stored locally. Leveraging other MS technology like Windows Information Protection (still needs work, I know), then the Windows desktop could finally become Corporately Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE), like we see with IOS and Android devices.
Windows 11 and Windows365 will finally be the Windows the world has been waiting for, that pushes the envelope for the Digital Workspace. The only question left is which type of endpoints to consume it on. I have an idea on that front…