“Context switching” is an interesting term in that it is often discussed in two separate ways – one that applies to human productivity and multitasking, and another that refers to software and computing.
When talking about context switching when it comes to human productivity, people are usually referring to the amount of time people lose when switching between different tasks throughout their workday. Research shows that there’s a significant cost of context switching, in that it takes an average of 9.5 minutes to get back into a productive workflow after task switching. This is why so many time management and productivity experts suggest that, to truly achieve a state of deep work you should focus on a single task until it is complete. For bigger projects that will take a long time, people suggest things like breaking the task up with the Pomodoro technique, using time blocks, or the bundling of similar tasks to facilitate more focused work and tackle your to-do list.
Now, when we talk about context switching as it relates to software and computing, that refers to the disruption that is caused when someone has to switch from one environment to another in order to complete a new task. One common example of the cost of context switching when it comes to computing is the use of traditional virtual desktops environments.
The use of virtual desktops (whether legacy VDI or DaaS) skyrocketed during the pandemic as orgs needed a way to give their people access to the apps & data they need to do their work from any device, anywhere. In some cases those orgs needed to send their people home with whatever devices they could find (or afford), and in other cases they needed their people to work on their own personal devices. The issue that orgs then have is that you may have people on multiple different operating systems like Windows, MacOS, ChromeOS, and more – but those people still need access to the business-critical apps and data needed to do their jobs.
By implementing virtual desktops, this creates a bifurcated experience in which your team members may have some applications installed locally on their device, and they also likely access a lot of their apps via SaaS – but then they have to log into a separate virtual desktop environment to access their business-critical apps (like your ERP, CRM, EHR, etc.). When a user has to stop working in one environment and then start a new process or application in another environment, that context switching takes a toll on your employees’ productive time and leads to attention residue that makes it harder for your people to get their focus time back.
Context Switching and its Impact on Digital Transformation
As part of their digital transformation efforts, many organizations are looking to move more of their infrastructure and applications to the cloud. Similarly, there is an accelerated demand for cloud-first operating systems (OSs), like ChromeOS, due to the cost, manageability, and security benefits. In fact, analyst firm IDC recently released a study titled “Accelerating Enterprise Adoption of Cloud-First Operating Systems with Virtual App Delivery (VAD)” addressing that trend.
But at the end of the day, the traditional virtual desktop approach to delivering apps is inherently problematic for the long-term adoption of cloud-first OSs like ChromeOS because it requires context switching that degrades the user experience & disrupts productivity.
For example – on ChromeOS, users access most of their apps as SaaS directly from Chrome or as PWAs. But when they need to access legacy Microsoft Windows, Linux, or internal web apps – the traditional virtual desktop model forces users to log in to a separate Windows OS-based environment. This context switching results in an awkward, bifurcated experience that (at best) annoys the user or (at worst) confuses them. In either case, it is an interruption to their workflow that distracts them from important tasks.
The context switching that virtual desktops force is one where users must switch back and forth between a modern, cloud-first computing model and the legacy model of a traditional Windows desktop. Virtual desktops and their reliance on the legacy Windows OS will always anchor organizations to the past, making it harder to fully adopt the future of computing.
Eliminating Context Switching for Cloud-First Operating Systems like ChromeOS
Cameyo has believed since day one that the future of computing is the elimination of the traditional desktop (the Windows OS, and therefore all legacy virtual desktops, too). Cameyo pioneered the Virtual App Delivery (VAD) market to make virtualization invisible to the end user, simply letting them access all of their apps the way they always have, as if they were installed locally, regardless of device. And we do so by eliminating the virtual desktop altogether and simply letting users access their apps from any device/operating system with no change to their behavior.
Cameyo is the only virtualization solution that eliminates context switching on cloud-first operating systems like ChromeOS. For example, with ChromeOS and Cameyo, a user simply logs into their ChromeOS device and can access all of their apps either from the browser or as PWAs. Even legacy Windows, Linux, and internal web apps can be deployed as Cameyo PWAs on ChromeOS, so the end user simply clicks on the app icon in the taskbar/shelf and the app launches in its own window. To the end user, Cameyo doesn’t exist – they simply click an app icon from the ChromeOS taskbar and work the way they’ve always worked (rather than logging into a Windows OS-based virtual desktop before launching their apps).
The Future of Computing, Unlocked
The world is increasingly aware of the security, manageability, and cost benefits of cloud-first operating systems – especially ChromeOS. Accelerated adoption of ChromeOS is not an awareness problem – it’s a legacy roadblock problem. Many enterprise IT leaders know that ChromeOS would yield many benefits for their org, but they are held back because they either think that they simply cannot access Windows (and other) apps on ChromeOS, or they think that the only way to do so is with virtual desktops which, in addition to the context switching problem, introduce cost, complexity, and security issues.
ChromeOS is the modern approach to computing that today’s cloud-first enterprises need. But organizations’ perceived need to adopt legacy virtual desktops in order to gain access to their critical apps on ChromeOS – forcing their people to switch back and forth between the future and the past – will continue to impede adoption.
ChromeOS and Cameyo (a Chrome Enterprise Recommended virtualization solution) unlock a future of computing where organizations no longer have to give any thought to which OS is required to run their apps. Orgs can now embrace the world’s most secure, manageable, sustainable, and cost-effective operating system and simply know that their people will be able to access all of their apps with absolutely no change to their behavior. As a result, a cloud-first operating system like ChromeOS can become the future of computing, with no need for users to ever switch back to the past.