Samsung Galaxy S8 and DeX dock: Can it make the virtual desktop a core technology?

Samsung's Galaxy S8 launch featured a bevy of tools for businesses including its DeX dock that'll turn the smartphone into a virtual desktop. We've seen this movie before. Has the technology changed enough to make the virtual desktop dream a reality?

Samsung's Galaxy S8 is chasing the virtual desktop dream with a dock that turns the smartphone into a real work system. What remains to be seen is whether Samsung will succeed where others have failed.

As executives outline the Galaxy S8 in New York City, it's clear that much of Samsung's pitch is to businesses both large and small. The pitch to larger companies is that the mainstreaming of virtual desktops is finally here. That B2B argument will be critical for Samsung. Why? The upgrade cycle is likely to be a bit slower than usual.

The Galaxy S8 has all you need in a flagship device: A strong design, premier specifications, and just enough that is new to spur upgrades. However, the Samsung upgrade cycle may not follow the familiar script given customers may hold back to make sure quality control issues have cleared.

Nevertheless, ZDNet's Jason Cipriani said the Galaxy S8 effort is strong, and CNET noted that the smartphone is solid in its first takes.

That slower upgrade pace may be OK because the enterprise cycle -- if it plays out -- takes time anyway. The most interesting feature in the Samsung Galaxy S8 is all about the enterprise. Samsung and Citrix outlined a DeX docking station that provides a desktop experience.

CNET First Take: Samsung's DeX dock

The hardware -- notably processors found in smartphones -- can now support running a full virtual desktop. Motorola pitched a Webtop concept back in 2012, but the effort was a bit clunky.

Here's DeX in 2017.

samsung-galaxy-s8-gear-vr-gear-360-dex-bixby-3.jpg

And here's the Webtop from 2012.

webtop-circa-2012.png

Both efforts look like they were separated at birth.

The theme then and now is that business users could dock the smartphone, use virtual desktops, and run Windows anywhere. The difference today is that the hardware -- processor, memory, and system speed -- makes the smartphone more of a desktop replacement.

Samsung said Microsoft's Office and Adobe's Creative Cloud will be optimized for DeX. VMware and Citrix will aim to optimize virtual machines for Samsung's Galaxy S8.

What's the real pitch here? Should Samsung prod enterprises to view the smartphone as the real convergence device the Galaxy S8 could have some sustainable momentum. Enterprises are buying laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Sure, there are 2-in-1 hybrid devices, but using the smartphone as the desktop could be powerful.

Yet the challenges are all too familiar. Will workers really see their smartphones as desktop replacements? Are the bandwidth and virtual desktop conditions perfect for a DeX type effort? And will workers deal with virtual desktops when they'll want their own laptops?

Samsung is betting that there's a market for DeX. The reality remains to be seen. After all, we've seen this virtual desktop-meets-smartphone master plan before. The technology issues have largely been solved. The cultural issues remain.

VIDEO: Check out the Galaxy S8: Samsung's new flagship

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