Benefits of the Dell and HP thin clients could also apply to point-of-sale terminals, where an application would need enough processing power to operate the graphical user interface, take orders and pump information back to the data center, O'Donnell said.
"More and more retailers have self-service check out," O'Donnell said.
Software, throughput and networking improvements also help the new thin clients host more powerful virtual desktops. Dell's thin clients can run virtualized high-end graphics with improvements made by Nvidia to its VGX virtualization technology, which allows graphics boards to render more virtual machines. The thin clients will be able to run full high-definition 1080p virtualized graphics, which could help in 3D modeling and engineering applications.
HP focused on boosting the throughput to thin clients, with improvements to its Velocity software to cut latency and congestion over wired and wireless networks. Velocity, which is included in HP's thin clients, adapt to network conditions. Other enhancements improve remote graphics capabilities on thin clients, HP said in a statement.