IBM launched on Monday its Smart Business Desktop service, a combination of thin client computing, virtualisation and the cloud, which is claimed to be the "industry's first public desktop cloud service".
"Today more than ever, enterprises need an affordable, reliable and efficient way to deploy and manage desktop infrastructures," said Jan Jackman, vice President, IBM Global Technology Services. "The public desktop cloud service is designed to help bring cost savings, flexibility, scalability and security to clients like never before."
The service will be available to businesses in Europe and North America in October, the company said.
According to IBM, companies will need minimal hardware to use the service. "All that's needed is a machine — a thin client or PC — capable of running an Internet browser and Java. Users simply log on over a secure connection through the Internet," the company said.
The new desktop service is part of a wider strategy around desktop virtualisation as a potential alternative to buying in new hardware, IBM said. "Through key technology and business partnerships with Citrix, Desktone, VMware and Wyse, along with IBM tools for customer assessment and strategic planning, IBM is helping clients address PC replacement dilemmas."
In June, IBM announced a set of cloud products and services as part of the Smart Business brand, with an initial focus on cloud development and virtual desktops. The development services include a beta service to allow firms to test software on an IBM maintained cloud, as well as a service called IBM Smart Business Test Cloud — a similar service but based on a private cloud model.
In March, IBM opened its first cloud centre just outside Dublin, a facility designed for commercial and academic use which could be used for research projects into computer science or meterology, the company said.
Although the potential impact of cloud computing and virtualisation on the desktop has not received as much attention as the server implications, IBM is not the only company exploring the area. In April this year, Swedish startup Xcerion launched the public beta-test of iCloud, a virtual desktop aimed at consumers and mobile workers. Unlike the hosted application approach provided by Google Docs and other services, iCloud resembles a fully functional operating system running in a browser.
And last week, RES Software launched its PowerFuse Workspace Extender, which the company promises will let IT departments deliver remote server-based and local desktop-based applications in a single virtualised environment, without the user being aware of the underlying infrastructure.