Thin clients are cheaper, easier to manage and use less energy than the standard business desktop. But one of their chief drawbacks has been an inability to process large multimedia files that many enterprise employees take for granted on their PCs.
Now, it seems, that may no longer be a problem with beefed-up processing and newly redesigned software from the major vendors.
While Devon IT sees the slowing economy and still-high energy costs as the main drivers for its TC2 system, the latest configurations come with 512MB of RAM and 1GB of DOM storage, plus support for Citrix XenDesktop and VDI suitable for the high data loads associated with multimedia files.
HP sees a growing opportunity as well. The company has issued a new version of its Virtual Client Essentials software that provides enhanced video and graphics capabilities and support for Linux-based clients and USB peripherals. The platform uses its own version of Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) housed within the HP thin client, which shifts graphics and video decoding away from the central server for improved multimedia performance.
Also getting a multimedia makeover is the Wyse Thin Client OS. Version 6.3 includes a new collaborative processing architecture that can detect heavy data applications on the server, such as video and graphics processing, and shift that over to the client. With more powerful processors now available for thin clients as well as PCs, Wyse says using that power out on the edge is no longer an issue for thin client architectures. The new version also supports Microsoft Terminal Services 2008 and the RDP protocol with 32-bit color and font smoothing.
VMware added some improvements to multimedia processing in the View 3, the latest version of the VDI platform. In addition to things like virtual (read: driverless) printing and automated USB redirect, the platform can now render local video as if it were being played on a virtual machine back at the server.
The long-stated goal of the thin client industry is to provide a complete PC experience at a fraction of the cost. Moving high-data applications onto the client overcomes much of the performance lag that has plagued the technology in recent years, but it's probably not a solution that can be extended very far into the future. After all, the more you place on the client, the less thin it becomes.