Tech Fo­cus

Matchbox-sized Dell Wyse Cloud Con­nect is a An­droid-pow­ered thin client that packs a punch


Pack­ing a per­for­mance

Matchbox-sized Dell Wyse Cloud Con­nect is a An­droid-pow­ered thin client that packs a punch

Dell’s re­cently launched thin-client de­vice called Cloud Con­nect is a small de­vice that is about the size of Google Chrome­cast. And while both run An­droid and plug di­rectly into an HDMI port, the sim­i­lar­i­ties end right there.

Cloud Con­nect of­fers far more than just a means to watch YouTube videos on a TV, al­though it can do that. The Cloud Con­nect so­lu­tion in­cludes a pow­er­ful back­end plat­form through which users ac­cess a man­aged set of en­ter­prise ap­pli­ca­tions and cor­po­rate data via a se­cure Citrix client run­ning lo­cally on this pocket sized An­droid de­vice.

An­droid in­side

The thin clients of yore were slaves to net­work and server band­width. But Dell’s An­droid-based so­lu­tion can store and ex­e­cute apps lo­cally. This per­mits lo­cal apps to browse the web, check email, run pre­sen­ta­tions and even stream me­dia. Win­dows apps can still ex­e­cute re­motely, and it is all done within the se­cure en­ve­lope of the Citrix client. And if your Citrix en­vi­ron­ment isn’t open to the In­ter­net, a VPN client can cre­ate a se­cure tun­nel into the in­side.

The de­vice runs a hard­ened ver­sion of An­droid Jelly Bean with a boot rou­tine that checks for an avail­able key­board, mouse and net­work con­nec­tion, and can then of­fer to con­nect with the mother­ship. In­struc­tions or prompts are pro­vided for any­thing the user hasn’t done be­fore, such as adding apps to the home screen.

Pack­ing per­for­mance

About the size of a matchbox, Cloud Con­nect has a du­al­core A9 pro­ces­sor, 1 GB RAM, plus 8 GB of flash stor­age— specs on par with the aver­age smart­phone. An additional 32 GB of stor­age can be added via mi­croSD card slot with sup­port for 64 GB com­ing in a fu­ture re­lease. Dell’s de­vice puts out an amaz­ing 1,920 x 1,080 res­o­lu­tion, with pix­els aplenty to dazzle board­rooms and prospects alike.

Nav­i­ga­tion per­for­mance is snappy, and dual-band Wi-Fi keeps web pages and video streams from stalling. The de­vice runs on a rel­a­tively low 2.5 watts, which it can get from an HDMI port that sup­ports the MHL spec for pow­er­ing dis­play-con­nected tablets and smart­phones. Other­wise, power can be sup­plied by any stan­dard USB port to a mi­croUSB port on the de­vice us­ing the in­cluded ca­ble. For just about ev­ery con­nec­tion sce­nario imag­in­able, it in­cludes a va­ri­ety of HDMI adapters.

Us­age sce­nar­ios

Dell has de­scribed sev­eral us­age sce­nar­ios that the com­pany be­lieves will be com­mon at the out­set. Ac­cord­ing to Dell, a sales­per­son can plug into a cus­tomer’s pro­jec­tor or screen and have ac­cess to all their data. And since he is not stuck us­ing his own lap­top, he will have a larger screen than he might other­wise.

For touch-en­abled kiosks and dig­i­tal sig­nage, Cloud Con­nect elim­i­nates the PC and many of the ca­bles. In schools, stu­dents can use it in the class­room and then take it home and con­tinue to work right where they left off.

Note­book re­place­ment?

For the trav­el­ing ex­ec­u­tive, Cloud Con­nect can be a su­perlight note­book work­sta­tion, pro­vided there is a mon­i­tor, key­board and mouse avail­able at the des­ti­na­tion. A sin­gle mini-USB 2.0 port can be used to con­nect a pe­riph­eral or USB hub; an in­cluded ca­ble con­verts the mini-USB to a full-size fe­male con­nec­tor.

We tested a va­ri­ety of USB don­gle-based wire­less key­board/mouse pairs on this port and all worked flaw­lessly. There is also Blue­tooth 4.0, and Dell sent a Blue­tooth key­board and mouse with the unit for test­ing. Both con­fig­ured quickly and worked well. Once paired, Blue­tooth de­vices re­con­nect seam­lessly. If a phys­i­cal key­board is dis­con­nected, the soft key­board pops up au­to­mat­i­cally.

If re­motely con­trol­ling the of­fice PC or Mac, there is an app for that too. Wyse Pocket -Cloud comes pre-in­stalled and works with an agent on a Mac OS X or Win­dows sys­tem.

The bot­tom line

Pulling it all to­gether for the en­ter­prise is the Cloud Client Man­ager (CCM), Dell’s cloud-based sys­tem for man­ag­ing users, groups and de­vices, and the ap­pli­ca­tions they can ac­cess. The free ver­sion makes you choose be­tween global and per-de­vice se­cu­rity poli­cies, and of­fers as­set track­ing, re­mote com­mands (such as de­vice wipe), real-time reporting and an­a­lyt­ics, and man­age­ment for as many as 25 de­vices and three ad­mins.

For $3 per de­vice per month, Dell adds the abil­ity to man­age mo­bile workspace and Pock­etCloud con­nec­tions, stock and man­age an app store, per­form Ac­tive Di­rec­tory im­ports, set poli­cies by group, user, de­vice or glob­ally, and re­ceive over-the-air firmware up­dates and phone sup­port. Dell also plans to in­te­grate CCM with its other en­ter­prise man­age­ment sys­tems, but hasn’t said when.

The de­vice lists for $129 or $99 when bun­dled with cer­tain Dell 20-, 23- and 27-inch touch dis­plays.

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