VMware, Citrix to have a crack at desktops on docked smartphones

Samsung Galaxy S8 can do it natively. Desktop virtualization might make it even better

Smartphone user photo via Shutterstock

VMware's going to have a crack at delivering desktops through smartphones.

The new Samsung Galaxy S8, launched today, features new software called “DeX” that, when the phone is plugged into a dock of the same name, allows the phone to connect to mouse, keyboard and monitor. When the phone is docked, DeX can also offer what The Register has been told is a “redesigned Android UI optimized for use with a keyboard and mouse including multiple-resizable windows, contextual menus and a desktop version Web browser with Samsung Internet.”

Users will be able to run Android and Web apps in Dex, making it a decent alternative to Chromebooks.

Samsung's also teamed with VMware to allow managed apps and virtual Windows desktops to be piped into the S8.

Virtzilla's Workspace ONE software will do the same tricks it can do on any phone, namely allow users to access a pre-approved catalog of apps in a walled-off secure zone. Once the S8 hits a DeX dock, Workspace ONE can keep on doing that. But if you are also running VMware's Horizon software, you'll be able to fire up an app that pipes in a full Windows desktop.

Jeffrey McGrath, VMware's senior director for product marketing of its end-user computing products, said he has seen this in the lab and it should be capable of handling graphics-intense applications. He added that he thinks the S8 will be able to deliver a decent desktop experience even if it's on a 4G connection, thanks to Horizon's use of the Blast Extreme Adaptive Transport (BEAT) protocol.

We'll have to wait a while to see if those assertions stack up, because the S8 won't go on sale for a few weeks after today's launch and VMware's code to deliver desktops to DeX won't be with us until mid-year.

By then Reg readers and McGrath alike will be closer to understanding if there's a market for this stuff. Microsoft's my-phone-is-a-desktop-now product, Continuum, is yet to set the world on fire. When we looked at HP's Elite x3, which does the same thing, we found it was held back by Continuum's less than stellar feature set and performance.

No wonder McGrath told The Register “I think it will be interesting to see the market size for this.”

He's optimistic, however, because VMware's AirWatch enterprise mobility management tentacle has seen a marked increase in use of Samsung devices inside business. He therefore feels that between BYOD and business fleet buys, there's someone out there willing to deploy DeX and Horizon. ®

UPDATE Citrix has been in touch to let us know it's also having a crack at this too and even has a solution "preferred" by Samsung. The familiar combination of Xen Desktop and Citrix Receiver will deliver virtual desktops to DeX, while Xen App will allow applications to be published to the device.

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