It's possible that neither of those options will exist. Maybe instead of spending $2000 dollars on a blazing fast PC, or instead of spending $500 of a copy of Windows and Office, maybe you'll spend $25 a month to access a blazing fast virtual desktop hosted on a geographically convenient Microsoft supercomputer. Better yet, you'll do that on your $200 netbook.
Here's my question to you, would you pay $25 a month to access a virtual desktop computing environment that's stocked with all the software you need? Think about it, no virus scanning software to slow down your local computer, no waiting for windows updates, no recovering from malware infection, it will just all be done for you. Sound like Shangri-la? My contention is that this day will come. If I had the venture capital backing, I'd set out to make it happen myself.
Consider this. Citrix is getting ready to launch some additional features in its HDX graphics processing technology for virtualized environments. If Citrix can deliver on its promise, you'll be able to more effectively run high end, graphics intensive applications like CAD, and perhaps even games, through a virtual desktop session. Consider that World of Warcraft, the most popular massively online role playing game on the planet, has millions of subscribers generating billions in revenue. Kids, and a lot of adults for that matter, spend hundreds of dollars on high end graphics cards and fast internet connections just to play this game at the highest quality level possible. I believe the monthly subscription fee is somewhere in the $15/month range. Assuming the user experience was as good or better, would you pay $35 a month if you could run World of Warcraft in a hosted virtual desktop session? Again, presumably, you could play the game on a cheapo netbook, over a Verizon EVDO connection while you're taking Amtrak from Washington to Boston. What better way to waste 8 hours!
From video conferencing, to VoIP, to flight simulation, my vision is that at some point, you won't be running any of these apps on your own hardware. Think I'm crazy? I know I am, but I've also been stuck in a virtualization lab for 6 months, so cut me some slack.
Do you have another vision for the future of desktop virtualization? Share it with us.