Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna is ready to stir up a debate: In a company blog post from Friday, he eulogized the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) industry, saying that the rise of SaaS has put the whole VDI in its grave right in the prime of its life. It's a bold stance, and one that's not likely to make the messaging and groupware provider many friends in the virtualization sector. But he makes several good points about SaaS vs. virtualized desktops that deserve addressing.

First, says Laguna, software as a service is just cheaper. Virtualized desktop infrastructure requires licenses for every piece of software delivered to the end-user, with all the implementation and maintenance costs that implies. But the only actual software needed to access a cloud application is a browser. Of course, it doesn't supplant the option for other legacy apps, but Laguna says that at least the cloud keeps the option open for IT staff.

Second, Laguna says that SaaS is a lot easier to manage. Administrating a simple browser-based tool is more straightforward than keeping track of a whole virtualized desktop environment. It's about time savings and personal effectiveness for IT staff and service providers.

Laguna goes on to posit that while combining VDI with the cloud isn't necessarily a bad idea, it just makes things more complicated while also limiting performance -- after all, not every app is designed to run from the cloud. And it can't match the smartphone and tablet mobility options that a true SaaS solution offers. Even if you can access your desktop from the smaller screen, it's not as good as a mobile-optimized cloud application.

TalkinCloud welcomes additional perspectives. But something that we're hearing a lot is intense pressure vs. the traditional desktop. Open-Xchange itself is working on a way to bring an Apple iOS-like framework to cloud applications in the browser, and the Google Chrome OS is built around eliminating everything but the browser from the computing experience.

And while VDI isn't exactly going away just because Laguna declared its demise, he does seem to make some good points about the versatility of SaaS over using virtualization to imitate what we've had for years. But only time -- and the IT services market -- will tell.

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