Citrix, OK Labs turn smartphone into thin client

The companies have released their 'Nirvana Phone' reference architecture, which would make it possible to access virtual desktops from smartphones

Citrix and Open Kernel Labs have unveiled their concept for a 'Nirvana Phone', a smartphone that would let people access their virtualised desktops from any location.

The reference design, announced by Citrix and OK Labs on Tuesday, combines the companies' mobile virtualisation technologies with wired and wireless connectivity to give handset manufacturers "a clear path to building handsets that meet the needs of IT organisations and mobile workers alike", Citrix community chief Chris Fleck said in a statement.

The idea is to use the smartphone as a thin client, which would be able to dock with a full-sized display, keyboard and mouse. The user would then access their virtual desktop from a central server or blade in the datacentre, using their 3G connection, a Citrix Receiver client and OK Lab's OKL4 microkernel for embedded devices.

OK Labs chief executive Steve Subar suggested in the statement that the Nirvana Phone architecture will "provide groundbreaking capabilities without breaking IT budgets with exotic technology", adding a prediction that handsets using the technology will be on the market within 12 to 18 months.

Rob McCammon, OK Labs's head of product management, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that handsets using the Nirvana Phone architecture would not cost significantly more than other smartphones, as the technology involves only a "relatively simple extension to the hardware".

McCammon stressed that it would be possible to access virtual desktops through the handset without the use of peripherals, albeit constrained by a "real small screen" and input limitations. He said a smartphone using the Nirvana Phone architecture would most likely link up to the monitor via HDMI, and to the keyboard and mouse via some kind of USB connector.

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