Windows' position within the business marketplace is shifting. Witness this year’s VMworld conference in San Francisco. VMworld is the virtualization Mecca -- and this year’s show could herald a new era for VMware competitor Microsoft: the post-Windows era.

News from a virtualization conference might not seem too relevant to Windows, but VMware’s announcement Tuesday of its new Horizon Suite makes a lot of difference. The suite, available in beta in the fourth quarter, pulls together several of VMware’s multi-platform management tools.

This is VMware committing to heterogeneous platforms, and that’s a pretty big deal.

“For nearly 30 years, Windows has been the dominant platform in the workplace,” explained Phil Montgomery, senior director of Product Management, Desktop Products at VMware. Now, he added, it’s Windows, Macs, iPads, and Android devices with which an IT manager has to contend.

The Horizon Suite promises to manage files, data and privileges across multiple platforms.

“It’s not necessarily about just mobile devices,” Montgomery said. “Mobile’s just one part of a much bigger multi-device workspace.”

Confronted with so many new and varied devices, managers can enact prohibitive policies, work with mobile-device management systems (which are slightly less restrictive), or just open the gates with a bring-your-own-device strategy.

He said one of VMware’s clients, a major college, was to deploy VMware View, a virtual desktop interface that enables employees to log into a completely controlled desktop environment over a network.

When VMware asked what hardware the 10,000-seat deployment would be supporting, the college’s IT managers said it would be on the students' own machines – all of them. The college took bring-your-own to the extreme.

Bring-your-own “is the direction that IT is going,” Montgomery said. If that is the future, unified management platforms will be must-haves as all-Windows environments become less common, and perhaps more rare.