Android app allows remote search of Macs and PCs

Wyse Technology's PocketCloud Explore app can search across multiple computers -- but not iPhones or iPads

Wyse Technology has launched an Android app that lets people search remotely for files on their PCs and laptops, then download them, copy them, or send them to another person, all from inside the app.

The idea behind the app, called PocketCloud Explore, is to help people who have multiple computers and can't always remember on which machine they stored something. One snag: The app can't search Apple's iPhone or iPad devices.

Wyse is best known for its thin-client computers, but two years ago it made a bit of a splash at the International Consumer Electronics Show with an app called PocketCloud Remote Desktop Access, which lets people access a Windows desktop from an iPhone by streaming the desktop over the network. A year later, it released a version for Android.

PocketCloud Explore, released Thursday, is an add-on for the Remote Desktop app. Explore lets users type a query on their smartphone, initiating a full-text search of their other computers, as well as the Android phone itself, to return documents, images and any other type of file that matches the query.

"With the range of devices people have today -- computers, smartphones, tablets -- getting to the files you need has become a problem," according to Daniel Barreto, general manager of the Mobile Client Business Unit at Wyse. "The idea is to provide a friendly user interface that makes it easy to search across all those devices."

To enable the search, users must first install another, free app, called PocketCloud Companion, on each of the computers they want to be able to search. It indexes the content on those computers, making it faster to search.

When PocketCloud Explore finds a result, the app presents the file along with a drop-down menu that lets the user download, copy, move, or transfer the file to someone else. If they choose to transfer it, the app can automatically open Gmail and create an email with the file attached to it, ready for sending. Wyse posted a video about the app here.

PocketCloud Explore for Android is priced at $4.99 to search as many as two computers remotely. A higher-priced, premium version due early next year will be able to search many more computers, Barreto said.

Wyse plans to release a version of the Explore app for iPhone users early next year, but even that won't be able to search iOS devices, only Macs and PCs. That's because apps on the iPhone are "siloed," Barreto said, meaning they can only access storage associated with the app.

There are other ways for users to search all their files at once. For example, they could upload them to a service such as DropBox. But that means constantly uploading new files, and some users might not want to put sensitive documents in the cloud.

Still, the Explore app isn't without its own potential security issues. If the user's smartphone were stolen, for instance, the thief might be able to access files on all their other computers, just as the app is designed to let people do.

Wyse advises customers to use the password lock on their smartphones, and the company noted that the Explore app and the remote desktops can also be password protected. Plus, users can block PocketCloud Explore from accessing certain files.

Still, for use in the workplace, Barreto acknowledged there are "definitely security issues IT managers need to be aware of." He argued the concerns are no greater than with virtual desktops and thin-client computing -- technologies that also provide remote access to files. And Wyse recently acquired Trellia, he noted, which makes technology to improve security and management of mobile devices.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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