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At CTO keynote, VMworld crowd starts to understand vClient

With all due respect to VMware’s new CEO Paul Maritz, the portion of yesterday’s keynote discussing VMware’s new vClient initiative didn’t seem to register much with VMworld attendees.

After the address by VMware CTO Steve Herrod, however, was a different story. Assisted by VMware’s Jerry Chen, Herrod and Chen finally got a rise out of the audience, who applauded loudly to a demonstration of 25 virtual machines being provisioned out to thin clients and laptops, then updating the master VM image with Google Chrome using ThinApp.

“I need that right now,” said the attendee sitting behind me at the conclusion of Chen’s demonstration. “Heck, I needed that yesterday.”

I think part of the crowd’s enthusiasm simply had to do with finally “getting it.” Unlike Maritz, Chen used the word ‘hypervisor’ to describe the “thin-client virtualization layer” that drives VMware’s vClient idea of being able to manage disconnected laptops as well as connected VDI thin clients. By saying the H word, 14,000 VMworld attendees had a collective aha moment.

Whatever the case, with vClient, VMware has once again taken a top-down approach, tackling the enterprise’s “desktop dilemma” rather than that of the consumer or SMB. In a subsequent conversation with VMware senior director of product marketing Bogomil Balkansky, he said it’s not that those segments don’t have desktop dilemmas of their own, rather, “the problems of the enterprise are very well identified,” and thus, for VMware, the enterprise is “a much easier entry point.”

Looking out a few years, however, Balkansky described a distinctly consumer-focused scenario. Home users today run full-fledged PCs, complete with a host OS, and all the attending management issues. At the same time, home users engage largely in web-focused activities. “Given that everything I do is Web-connected, why isn’t that part of my DSL service?” Balkansky asked rhetorically.

In other words, Balkansky is insinuating that someday, users’ personal desktops will run as VDI images hosted by the Verizons and Comcasts of the world rather than locally on their home PCs. For a small monthly fee, users will enjoy the convenience of a centrally managed, backed up desktop that they can access from anywhere, and easily recover even if their disk drive fails or laptop is stolen. That’s an idea that just about everyone can get their head around.

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