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Wyse PocketCloud aims to get your desktop anywhere you are


If the name Wyse sounds familiar, it's probably because the company has been doing remote access since the days of acoustic couplers and 300-baud modems. Founded in 1981, it has evolved from its early days of creating 'dumb terminals' to become an industry leader in virtual desktops, giving users access to servers or virtualized PCs through protocols like VNC, RDP or VMware View.

Expanding the Wyse offerings to the smartphone and tablet space wasn't that big a leap, and it's been pretty successful. Last week the company announced that its PocketCloud products for iOS and Android have been downloaded over a million times.

The current version of PocketCloud Pro for iPhone and iPad (US$14.99) delivers both local connectivity and a handy Google App Engine locator service for remote machines. You can install the desktop client on your Mac or PC, authenticate with your Google account, and immediately operate all your active computers as though you were sitting in front of them.

With a $0.99 monthly in-app purchase, you can also get file browser/file transfer access to your PCs, AirPrint printing, video streaming from the remote RDP server or VMware View service, slimmed-down browser mode (including Flash and audio) and more. (Compare to the $29.99 LogMeIn Ignition app, which I'm also quite fond of.) PocketCloud also comes in an ad-supported free version, which only allows you to keep one computer in your destinations list among other limitations; for everything except VMware View, however, it's a good way to test out the app and see if it suits you.

The PocketCloud UI is about as friendly as I've seen in remote access apps, with a clever 'smart pointer' tool that gives you precise mouse positioning, left/right click and rapid keyboard access. Like all the apps in this category, it takes a while to configure it and get comfortable with operating the remote machine, but once you get your legs (or fingers) under you, it becomes second nature.

Obviously, remote access tools are vital to system administrators or IT support folk -- even for supporting family and friends -- but Wyse is interested in expanding that audience. I spoke to David Nagy last week, Wyse's mobile unit director of product marketing, and he pointed out that mobile businesspeople and small business owners don't really want to bring their laptops everywhere when they can manage with an iPad. Still, there are moments when they need access to specific desktop apps or files, and tools like PocketCloud (combined with file storage options like Dropbox) can make that happen.

There's also a growing market for virtual desktops provisioned for business, student or home users; Nagy suggested that the long-anticipated rental market for desktop applications ("Need Excel for the day? That'll be $2, thanks!") could be kickstarted by ubiquitous, inexpensive remote access on devices like the iPad. That'd certainly bring new meaning to the term 'thin client.'

There's a brief PocketCloud overview video below.

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