Desktop As A Service For The Consumer – Will It Ever Happen?

Jun 17, 2013
Kevin Linsell looks at DaaS and its consumer benefits

For those that follow me on twitter (@KevLinsell) you’ll know I am a “Follower of Tech” - I don’t get ‘technology for technology’s sake’ and I certainly don’t buy just because it’s the latest and greatest. For me, technology needs to add some form of value to my life.

Technology Needs to Just - Work

Long gone are my programming days (ZX Spectrum then Atari ST) and the time to spend hours gaming (Atari ST, Gamecube and original Playstation). Now technology has to fit around my busy adult life: work, being a husband and father to two rambunctious boys … anything that needs significant time devoted to it is unlikely to be a winner in the Linsell household! (Past winners include PowerLine adapters, Sonos systems and of course the iPad).

Growing up with technology, my kids expect everything to just work…..and have a touch screen too, judging by the finger prints on my Samsung LED TV. They have a mix of technology ranging from an old PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DSi and iPads, all of which are very simple to secure with just a few settings. The challenge comes with their PC.

I recently acquired a 2007 vintage HP Laptop – one from the ‘desktop replacement era’ (did that category even really exist?!) in that it is massive, heavy and the battery has long ago given up the notion of storing and providing power to anything. However, to sit in their play room for access to the Internet it would more than do the job. So, I set about the task of installing it, configuring it and securing it for the use of my 5 and 8 year old duo. It has been quite a few years since I was involved in IT support and it doesn’t seem to be any easier!

First job was to wipe the hard disc to remove any old data, mis-installed software, etc so that I had a nice clean machine to start with. This was quickly and easily achieved with a Linux boot CD.

Next task was to install Windows. Raiding my software collection in the loft, I found I had:

  • XP Home but couldn’t find the license key
  • Vista Ultimate with license key
  • Win7 Upgrade

Given the age of the PC and that it had both a ‘designed for XP’ logo and an ‘XP Pro License Key’ attached, I simplistically thought I would just install my XP Home. Nope, the XP Pro License Key is not valid for XP Home. So, I thought I would install Win7….but as an upgrade it needed a licensed copy of a previous OS not just the original media.

At this point I thought I’d go Vista and then upgrade to Win7 – not wanting to be left with Vista! But this failed because apparently the upgrade path from Vista Ultimate to Win7 is not a valid one.

In the end I just left Vista on the PC.

I only wanted a Windows OS so I could install Kidzui – an excellent browser that securely delivers ’the Internet for Kids’. Not fool proof (no security is) but a great application that I highly recommend.

After numerous hours getting the Windows OS up and running, hundreds of updates to the aging Vista OS and many, many cups of strong coffee…(and trying not to use unsuitable strong language) I installed the kids’ browser successfully. This took all of 5 mins and the PC was complete!

Once I settled down with a nice glass of Merlot I started to reflect on my experience. What I could have done was use that simple Linux boot to access a DaaS session somewhere in the cloud. That DaaS session would have run my unique instance of Kidzui and given me a solution in a matter of minutes as opposed to many hours… Not only that, my kids could have access from any PC in the house, or indeed at friends’ houses and family. Plus, when the aging laptop finally dies or gets replaced, I wouldn’t have to go through all this pain again. It would also be accessible from devices other than a PC- this applies equally to my other PCs at home as they rarely travel due to use of Smartphones and Tablets.

Referring back to my opening paragraph of how technology needs to add value to modern life, the option of a secure, cloud hosted desktop running my specific applications is very appealing. For me, Desktop as a Service (DaaS) could be the ‘it just works’ solution to my consumer PC requirements.

Offering DaaS to consumers is unlikely to be a viable business proposition (it’s probably not cost effective - yet) but similar challenges to those faced above are being repeated day in and day out in most companies. Could DaaS add value to the life of many corporate citizens? I think so, and will be continuing to explore, develop and expand our DaaS offerings which are already making life easier for many customers.

Kevin Linsell, Head of Service Development

Kevin Linsell
Director, Strategy & Architecture

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