Even with the rapid adoption of SaaS and AppStore platforms as the delivery mechanism of choice for educational software the requirement to run Windows programs will remain as these applications often have important roles within a school. For instance Windows software may be deeply embedded into the teaching practice or support the schools SiS/MIS system.
However it’s important to make one distinction. While Windows software still has some value in the serverless school, supporting the Windows desktop operating system is no more important than ChromeOS, Android, MacOS or iOS.
|Courtesy of CloudTweek|
In the preceding decade when the Windows GUI underwent a few cosmetic changes the experience of using a Windows desktop in the classroom had some value as those skills could be transferred directly to the workplace. However with the adoption of the Metro style and the Start Bar appearing, disappearing and then reappearing with Windows10 is there’s any point in a student gaining any formal experience in using a Windows GUI above any other interface.
In 2015 when the majority of workplace computers still run Windows 7 how much value it there in exposing a class year group, who may not be leaving education for another six years to a GUI that's already six years old?
However the main reason why the Windows GUI is irrelevant within a teaching context is because the future the look and feel of the desktop will be based on mobile and SaaS. Students already possess those navigation skills because that how their smartphones operate. They don't need to be shown how any desktop GUI works because the vendor road-maps all show that in time they’ll be one and the same with the devices in their hand. This is as true for Microsoft as it is for everybody else.
A SaaS solution requires a method to support Windows applications but not necessarily a Windows desktop.
With the complexity of Active Directory removed perhaps Windows devices could operate in a similar manner to all other mobile devices, using local machine accounts and simply acting as stateless platforms for launching applications.
The security context and ‘state’ for each user session would be provided by cross platform software such as the Chrome Browser not the underlying Operating System (OS).
The student maintains a ‘profile’ on the device by logging into Chrome and logging back out at the end of the session. When a student signs-in to Chrome bookmarks, tabs, history and other browser preferences are saved providing a consistent experience across multiple platforms.
The future belongs to a design that is cross platform and has the ability to adapt far quicker to emerging trends.
Its a tough call to predict what the working environment will be like for students entering the jobs market six years from now. The only sure thing is - it'll be different from what we've have now!