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The Department for Work and Pensions' chief technology officer has said that the latest version of Microsoft Windows may be the last to be widely deployed.

James Gardner said that he believes that Windows will no longer be as largely needed because there will be "fewer workloads" that require a "heavy desktop stack".

"Today of course, we have all this legacy that's coupled to the desktop, but in a decade, I really doubt that will be the case. Most stuff will arrive via the browser," he said, in a post on his personal blog on 1 November 2010.

He added that it is possible that there will be "ubiquitous wireless networking everywhere, even those difficult places outreach workers sometimes have to go". This would remove the need for heavy-duty desktop software.

Over the next decade "security colleagues" within government will have found clever ways of doing things without "the fortress stuff they presently require of us", Gardner added.

He also argued that he could not imagine people needing much more than a tablet-like device to have all their relevant information at hand, but conceded that there will be some occasions when people will need "everything local".

"The real question, I think, is what Microsoft will do to restore the value of Windows. In the past their strategy has been to shift the operating system up the value chain, taking more specialised functionality from apps and embedding it in the base platform. They did that with Internet Explorer, for example. With messaging queueing and transaction services, and a whole pile of other things that were once separate apps," Gardner explained.

This is now becoming less common because most of the action is now happening in the data centre or the cloud, he added.

The technology chief also suggested that it would be a mistake to build a technology estate that depends on a desktop stack because you cannot guarantee that the stack will be relevant in 10 years' time.

"It feels funny, doesn't it, thinking about Windows in the context of it being irrelevant, after all these years we've relied on it. I guess it proves, again, that change is the only constant," he said.

Despite this, Gardner said that the department's recent £200m deal with Fujitsu to refresh its desktop estate includes Microsoft's software. "We're going to have the latest Office, the latest Windows, and all of it will be delivered via the network to clever thin client terminals or thin spec notebooks. Considering we're presently struggling along with XP, this will be a bit of a leap from where we are presently."

He also envisages that the DWP will keep the new desktop estate "for maybe a decade".

"It takes that long for a desktop operating environment to get so long in the tooth that no matter what you do you can't keep it going any longer. And we'll keep it that long because the costs of getting a working desktop in the first place are so absurdly high that doing anything else is completely irresponsible," he added.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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