Meet Ophelia, Dell's $50 plug-in, cloud-based PC challenger

Dell looks to challenge cheap-PC makers and perhaps reinvent itself with a plug-and-play thin client

Amid the glitzy tablets, glamorous smartphones, and ridiculous electronic forks at this year's CES, it was easy to overlook Dell's announcement of an innocuous-looking little device resembling a slightly oversized USB thumb drive. While not much to look at, this "ultra-compact, multimedia-capable device" dubbed "Project Ophelia" -- really a thin client in USB clothing -- could prove a game changer, both for struggling Dell and perhaps the PC market.

Project Ophelia is the fruit of Dell's acquisition of thin-client vendor Wyse. The idea is, you plug it into any compatible television or monitor and have access to your apps and data via the cloud. The device is built on Android 4 OS to support Web browsing and multimedia playback, plus Android applications, according to Dell. It also securely connects to Windows desktops and applications running on back-end systems running infrastructure from Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware, per Dell.

In terms of connectivity, the devices supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) to draw power to boot from an HDTV display; it also can be plugged into a USB port. Through integrated Bluetooth, one can connect a keyboard and mouse. It also has integrated Wi-Fi.

The cloud plays heavily into the functionality of the device, beyond serving as the delivery mechanism for applications and data. It can be managed via the Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager SaaS, which the company unveiled last November. The service aims to equip IT with a single pane of glass for managing mobile devices of all types, from smartphones to thin clients. The service include tools for configuring clients, managing user policies, and generating real-time reports on application and device inventory, as well as a self-service portal through which users can register devices, reset passwords, and locate, lock, and wipe devices.

Although pricing hasn't been officially announced, Dell's vice president of cloud operations Tarkan Maner told Quartz, "We want to start the product at $50."

At that price, Maner said, not even Lenovo could compete -- "and I'm still making 50 percent gross margin," he said.

Just how heavily Dell plans to steer away from traditional PCs in favor of Project Ophelia, thin clients, and other cloud-related hardware (servers) and services remains to be seen. The IT industry will have to wait a while longer, as Dell engages with investors looking to take the company private.

This story, "Meet Ophelia, Dell's $50 plug-in, cloud-based PC challenger," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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