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VMware brings fat graphics to thin clients

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VMware has integrated a new PCoIP screen protocol into its View 4 platform that it claims will give it an edge on Microsoft's RDP for desktop clients.

The ability of thin client products to properly and fully render graphics-intensive applications has been limited. VMware thinks it has got the problem basically licked with its new protocol.

VIEW 4 is VMware's new virtual desktop product, built on vSphere, and it improves transmission of desktop screen redrawing commands through the use of the PCoIP protocol developed by Teradici. It promises virtually instantaneous screen redrawing responses to desktop client keyboard and mouse commands because of this, and says it's better than Microsoft's RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) and HP's RGS.

Teradici is a privately-held and venture capital-backed Vancouver based startup, founded in 2004. It has developed a protocol and chips - one of which resides in the desktop client - which transform a thin client into the equivalent of a high-end graphics workstation, in terms of screen rendering time and responsiveness.

Demonstrations show a desktop client displaying a 3D building model in Acrobat, with the Acrobat application running in a LAN-connected server, actually in a VMware virtual machine in that server. User desktop mouse input to resize and rotate the 3D image is responded to as if the Acrobat app was running on the local machine.

VMware has worked with Teradici on its software implementation of PCoIP, which contains a map of the pixels on the desktop client display and only transmits changed pixels to that device. The pixel information is encrypted, according to Teradici, so that sensitive information cannot be obtained from the desktop client.

VMware says that the desktop device could use Teradici's chip for particularly graphics-intensive applications where responsiveness is paramount.

It also says its PCoIP dynamically detects device type, network connections and locations and optimises the server output to the desktop client for both hardware and software environments.

The PCoIP protocol downscales output definition if the desktop client has a lower-definition screen than the application supports. It also supports sound.

A Teradici spokesperson said the protocol supports both LAN and WAN connectivity, "thousands of miles" of WAN connectivity in fact.

A VMware spokesperson said the main focus next year is to get voice-over-IP (VoIP) and video-conferencing working with PCoIP. The spokesman said: "We want to intelligently realise we're working with video and optimise the process."

Bearing in mind VMware's involvement with Cisco and Cisco's interest in teleconferencing, then the ability of VMware virtual desktop thin clients to partake in video conferencing is obviously attractive.

Teradici is able to sell its technology elsewhere, but the VMware implementation of it is exclusive to VMware.

VMware View 4 will be generally available on November 19, 2009 through VMware sales and its OEM and channel partners. ®

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