Dell recently announced it is building a new class of cloud-access device. The post, Dell cooks up an Android PC on an HDMI stick by my colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, reviews Dell's announcement. I'd like to explore the topic of an Android-based device in a USB-stick form factor a bit more.
What Dell Announced
Here's Dell's quick description of the device itself:
Cloud Connect represents a new end-user device category that bridges thin clients and mobile devices as part of Dell Cloud Client-Computing’s end-to-end desktop virtualization solutions portfolio. The extremely compact, secure, cloud-managed device with a low total cost of ownership (TCO) supports multiple use cases including mobile workers, students, digital signage, kiosks and other space-constrained environments. Specific customer benefits include:
- Quick and secure access for mobile and remote workers to virtual desktops and a variety of cloud assets including content, applications, virtual desktops and IT support
- Easy remote connections to personal computers running Microsoft Windows OS or Apple Mac OS to access data, content or applications
- Plug-and-play interactive presentations run in full-HD directly from the cloud or device, on any compatible display
- Pocket-size, battery-free alternative in the event of loss, theft, or failure of primary devices
- Cost-effective virtual desktop for the education market, extending application and data access in classrooms, libraries, labs or at home
- Digital signage solution with simplified, remote management for airports, retailers, hospitality, or other organizations
- Personal cloud access to online entertainment, gaming, apps and rich content on large displays
It seems that everyone is looking for a way for mobile staff to access cloud-based applications as well as a company's own in-house applications in a safe and manageable way. In the past, this access was provided by laptop computers or thin-client devices. The industry appears to be transitioning to smartphones and tablets. Dell believes that it would be easier to carry a device that comes in a USB-stick form factor and both a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Is it really easier? Not really.
Where does this device fit?
Is it really easier to carry a monitor, Bluetooth keyboard, Bluetooth mouse and the necessary power cables for the monitor and USB stick computer than carrying a smartphone or tablet. I think not.
While I can see a number of use cases in which the Dell Wyse Cloud Connect would be very useful. These all have one thing in common. The person using the device has actually arrived at a customer site, remote company office or a hotel, that is a place which has a television or computer monitor and a place for that person to sit and work. People actually in transit would be better served by using their smartphone or tablet.
Healthcare, financial services and call centers could certainly use a device like Dell Cloud Connect but, it would be just as easy to use a thin client device from someone such as HP or Wyse. The only major difference is that Dell Cloud Connect can run local Android apps.
Is Dell really the first to offer this type of device?
In a word, "no."
Just search the Internet for "Android Stick" or "Stick Computer" and several competitors will appear immediately. All of them appear to offer similar capabilities. The major difference is Dell's management software.
Here are a few of the competitors I've been able to find:
- FAVI Android SmartStick — available for $49
- Tianle TL869 Android Streaming Media Stick/Mini PC — available for $49
While Dell Wyse Cloud Connect certainly appears useful for some applications, it isn't a replacement for a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer.