I think the iPad and other tablet computing devices may finally provide the use case for what was once called thin client or network computing and is now called virtual desktops, which has been alluding proponents of this technology all these years. Thin clients were promoted as an easier to administrate and thus a lower cost solution of end user computing for enterprises, but the lowering cost of desktop computers decreased the benefits and cost savings.
Tablet computers like the iPad that don’t run full desktop operating systems are perfect devices for running virtual desktops. What is needed are companies to provide virtual desktop hosting on the Internet at affordable prices. Ideally, such services would charge for only the time and bandwidth that one uses, such as a couple of dollars per hour. At the moment the companies providing hosted virtual desktops charge a flat monthly fee.
One such company is Nasstar, who graciously provided me with a trial account to their service over a weekend. Nasstar provides a Windows 7 desktop with Office 2010 for approximately $78 per month. The monthly cost covers the licensing fees for using the software and includes a hosted Microsoft Exchange account. You also pay $6 per GB per month for file storage. Nasstar backs up files nightly and performs a full weekly backup that is taken offsite. The connection between the client running on the iPad and their server uses 128 bit encryption, which is the same level of security used for online banking. For the monthly fee Nasstar provides a level of technology and support that most corporations expect.
My search for hosted virtual desktop solutions yield a small handful of companies, the following is a brief listing and the monthly cost as provided on their web site:
– Triple 888: $39/month
– Spirinet: $69.99/month
– 3EssentialsHosting: $49.90/month