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There are a lot of IT events that are seemingly unrelated that upon further examination wind up having a direct causal relationship. Such is the case between mobile computing and thin clients.One of the knocks against thin client all these years was the end users needed a device that was mobile, which led them to buy notebooks that they could use inside and outside the office. But with the rise of mobile computing devices such as the Apple iPad, many of which are paid for by the end user directly, the mobile computing requirement is increasingly being serviced by devices other than a network.

That creates some interesting possibilities for IT organizations that have long thought of the notebook as prohibitively expensive device to manage. Instead of buying more PCs, an increasing percentage of those notebooks are being replaced by thin client devices in the office that are complemented by tablet devices on the road.

Beyond the obvious lower costs for the IT organization, the whole environment winds up being less costly to manage. This is not to say that notebooks will be replaced wholesale, but it’s apparent that thin clients are about to become a bigger part of the mix. According to Jeff McNaught, chief marketing and strategy officer for Wyse Technology, there’s no a tradeoff between the Windows experience on a thin client and a PC, which means user resistance to the technology is dropping.

Most recently Wyse, which is in the process of being acquired by Dell, launched thin client offerings that are optimized for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments using virtual machine software from Citrix. As IT management gets more centralized, McNaught says that thin clients are becoming part of the desktop virtualization environment. Hewlett-Packard, which recently launched an HP t410 All-in-One Smart Zero Client that draws power over an Ethernet connection see much the same opportunity.

But the biggest challenge associated with thin clients may have nothing to do with the technology itself. IT organization are taking advantage of virtualization to turn existing PCs into thin clients with or without the knowledge of their end users. In fact, Pano Logic just started shipping, for example, a System 6.0 upgrade that introduces Pano Virtual Client (PVC) technology that transforms PCs or laptops into virtual desktop clients.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by Cisco found that 79 percent of the 1,300 IT professionals surveyed had either already implemented virtual desktops or plan to within the next one to three years. That suggests a slow, but steady migration to desktop virtualization, which will enable many customers to think about either turning PCs into thin client or replacing those PCs with an actual thin client. In many cases the answer will be both, with customers opting to turn an existing PC into a thin client and then replacing it later on with an actual thin client device.

All of this change is good for the channel in that it creates opportunity to not only sell thin clients, but also a new generation of virtualization, systems management and server offerings needed to implement them. But it’s not just going to all magically happen of its own accord; somebody in the channel has to get the conversation actually started.