Dell bringing Windows desktop to Chromebooks through appliance

With virtualization, Dell's Appliance for Wyse -- vWorkspace provides businesses an option to upgrade from Windows PCs to Chromebooks

Dell is offering to helping cut business' reliance on Windows PC hardware with a new management appliance, which could serve up virtual Windows desktops to Chromebooks.

Dell's Appliance for Wyse - vWorkspace product uses desktop virtualization technology to deliver Windows desktop software to Chromebooks and other endpoints. Though brokered from a remote location, the Windows OS will be fully functional and run as if it were loaded locally.

As part of its Chrome for Work program, Google has aggressively pushed Chromebooks into businesses as an alternative to Windows PCs. Chromebooks are thin, lightweight laptops for those who do most of their computing on the Internet. Google has said that Chromebooks are tuned for the future of cloud computing, as they were built from the ground up to run rich Web applications.

Dell envisioned a similar future for cloud-based computing on PCs when it bought Wyse and its virtualization technology in 2012, just when the PC market was losing steam. Dell's PC business is still centered around Windows laptops and desktops, but the company has ramped up its portfolio of cloud-based computers with Wyse thin clients and Chromebooks. It also sells the thumb-size Cloud Connect device, which turns a display with an HDMI port into an Android PC.

But Dell recognizes that Windows remains dominant among businesses, and the Dell Appliance for Wyse - vWorkspace makes it easier to deploy the Windows OS to cloud-based devices like Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, which is a Chrome desktop. The appliance allows customers to run Microsoft Windows applications or a full Windows desktop through Chromebook's HTML5 browser, said Chris Bell, senior product manager for Dell Cloud Client Computing.

One appliance can deliver Windows applications to up to 350 devices, with prices starting at US$180 per user for the hardware and licenses.

Beyond deploying virtual Windows desktops, the appliance also can remotely manage a fleet of Chrome OS desktops and laptops. The price does not include input management or monitoring software, so system administrators won't be able to micromanage applications installed on each Chrome device. However, Dell offers those features separately as part of its Wyse portfolio.

The appliance was announced at Microsoft's Ignite conference in Chicago. The product is targeted at small businesses, and is built on the hardware used in the company's mid-range PowerEdge R730 rack and T630 tower servers.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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