Most people are familiar with Dell, at least from school or work. In the ’90s, the company’s PCs spread to the four winds and made it one of the biggest PC manufacturers in the United States. All that is changing, however, with many consumers dumping laptops for tablets; and with small, powerful, cheap PCs taking up the flag for the office, margins are in the toilet. Combine that with an increasingly rocky relationship with Microsoft, and we might have a fight on our hands over the future of computing.
Is it Windows 8, whose RT and RT Pro versions promise hybrid tablet/desktop experiences, or will the jump from the big daddy OS to an app experience be the rule for home users? Dell may be betting on the latter with its new thin-client PC, which is designed to plug directly into your HDTV. From ArsTechnica comes this news:
Dell announced its pocket client PC, called “project Ophelia,” on January 8, and demonstrated it at CES. Developed by Dell’s Wyse unit, Ophelia uses a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) to draw power to boot from an HDTV display, or it can be powered off a USB port. It has integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability for connecting to a keyboard, a mouse, and the network, and it runs the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) operating system with all of the functionality of a tablet. It can also be used to power virtual instances of other desktop operating systems on a remote server or in the cloud.
In other words, it’s a fusion of Wyse’s thin client technology modeled after the capabilities of a Google Chromebook—except it can be carried in a pocket. The main drawbacks are that few HDTVs currently support MHL—though such support can be found in a number of Dell flat-panel displays.
While most people in America, at least right now, don’t think of their TVs as a place to get work done, these kinds of features are big in Asia and developing nations, where a Smart TV is many people’s first introduction to an internet capable device (which is why you see Panasonic and Samsung pushing Skype on their TVs).
Before the iPad, a lot of people bought laptops to surf the ‘net and chat from the couch. Now tablets dominate that domain. The most common uses for desktop computers — word processing, spreadsheets, and other fairly low power activities — mean that people just don’t need more power at the desktop. This is a huge chance for Dell to re-invent its core business in a low overhead model that will make not only Smart TVs upgradeable, but if Ophelia really does run in the $50 range, this could create the kind of yearly churn that encourages people to impulse upgrade. The next five years are going to predict the 20 that follow in terms of how technology integrates into the home, and every new console, or new innovative doohicky like this, adds a new piece to the puzzle.