Nivio has started beta tests of a Windows XP hosted desktop service, which it claims can stream a desktop to any compatible browser so you can remotely access Windows apps on Linux, a Mac, or even a handheld device. The company hopes to follow the access-anywhere success of GoogleMail, Yahoo! and the like - but with access to …
One possible solution to computing for developing countries?
Provided you have the bandwidth: but it would cost less to developing countries to build up in infrastructure and license such schemes instead of buying cheap PCs.
Not to count that the ecological impact would be minimized not having to dump PCs later.
And for "developed" countries (double quotes are mandatory here...): adopting the technology in big companies would save a lot of telecommuting and queues.
I see the benefits there but I am skeptical that enterprise barons or politicians would be so fast adopting this model.
Times they are repeating
It looks suspiciously like a fat server/thin (dumb) client model which fashion decided was sooo last decade in the 80s.
Great way to extend the usefulness of old kit, especially for impoverished students who no doubt have access to huge amounts of bandwidth at uni.
A good idea for uni IT staff possibly to. Give all the cranky academics a nice monitor, hide the crap box and voila,no need to worry about amortizing heavy investment costs. Plenty left over from this years cap ex budget to get a few rounds in....
Swiss data protection laws?
Does this mean you could carry out PC based activities that would be classed as illegal here in the UK and not be at risk of your PC/files being siezed?
This made me think of Babeldisc - http://www.babeldisc.com/ . In one sense it's completely different, as Babeldisc runs locally off a live (Linux) CD and uses a broadband connection to access data, configuration settings etc. on the babeldisc servers. However, the end result is similar: a desktop you can access from any broadband connected PC; system administration and backup handled for you; a similar set of preinstalled applications. This service is quite a bit more expensive than Babeldisc, but the familiarity of Windows (and the fact it doesn't need a CD) might give it an edge for some people.
It would be interesting for someone to do a back-to-back comparison of the two, used for real world work.
They would still need PC's for a browser
The users in the developing nations would still need PC's to get a browser to access the services.
I also believe that bandwidth is a major issue in these countries where the telecommunications infrastructure is considerably less developed and not as far reaching as our own in Europe and North America.
Wouldn't this be a great solution (eventually) for an internet gaming firm? Imagine:
-no state-of-the-art PC needed for a start, so no need (as a customer) to keep up with the hardware curve. All thats needed (!) is a high-speed, QoS-equipped internet connection, some kind of display, input devices, and audio in/out
-patching becomes the responsibility of the hosting firm- which suits them down to the ground, as then there's no need for Punkbusters, etc, and they ensure that all players are on the same platform and are evenly balanced.
(This also enlarges the possibility of true league gaming, a bit of a gaming nirvana, as there'd be no need to congregate players in a physical location, as is done at present. It could be centrally-hosted, remotely-accessed.)
I know I'm blueskying a bit, cos I've tried this out myself and hit snags. At present, there's no way to hook any of the 3D API's into a screen-scraping solution (at least, there wasn't for DirectX and OpenGL a year or so back) so this remains an immediate challenge for near-realtime screen updates.
But it will come.
Not so useful for developing countries
This might be a good solution for developing countries, if it weren't for the fact that building the kind of infrastructure needed is expensive, difficult and takes time.
PCs are easily available and parts are available for repairs. Also, once you've bought it there are no recurring costs (assuming zero maintenance, which is the usual case).
For example, here in Nigeria we're stuck with erratic and slow dial up or satellite internet. Satellite has problems with latency (we're talking at least 650ms). Dial up only works when the landlines do, they're frequently off due to strikes, poor maintenance or no adequately explained reason.
Your forgot one....
I've played with Nivio (as well as cosmopod) and found it to be ok. I'm now using desktopondemand.com and they're working out to be good for my needs.
It too is in Beta but is fairly full featured.
Sounds like Citrix to me
Citrix have already been doing this for years; it does have problems with latency but I think this can be only expected when trying to run GUI apps over the Internet. Universities already do this but not as one correspondent to reuse old PCs. Many Citrix sessions are actually run from new PCs or thin Linux or Windows CE clients. You tend to find that Citrix has very significant costs, the reason it tends to be done is for management, rather than cost.
Some random points
The solution looks quite sweet - it is definately very quick and has some really good benefits like backup and mobile access. The downloads were really quick - i wonder how long that will stay!
I wonder who their target audience is - from their site it looks like Academics and Non-Academics alike but not so much the business world - I guess a good start as businesses would have issues with them (IT depts!)
The article says they have a centre in New Delhi - would be interesting to know what their strategy would be for guys without a PC or access to a nearby internet cafe..hmm... this could be a good product for internet cafes - the same desktop in any cafe...
After playing with it I would love to know how I get more apps or install my own and what the roadmap is to support Video playback (bit stuttery right now).
Thats all from me.
"I also believe that bandwidth is a major issue in these countries where the telecommunications infrastructure is considerably less developed and not as far reaching as our own in Europe and North America."
Nigeria seems to have plenty of excess bandwidth, to judge from the sheer volume of "419" advance fee fraud scams coming from that nation.
One thing which concerns me is the privacy angle. We are in an age of wire-taps, intercepted email and god only knows what else. Would it not be highly likely that back-door access would be allowed by the host for the security services to eavesdrop and possibly duplicate commercially-sensitive information?
Also, I wouldn't want my companys operational abilities to rely on my ISP or BT. OK, there is a short-term fix by duplicating the files locally but I think that this concept is best suited to those who depend less on the system or who use the tools provided rather then storing large volumes of important data server-side.
@Gary McCabe - yeah, this would be great for gaming but as yet Vmware doesn't support 3D applications. One day.......
Begginging of the end
This is the latest step in a journey that ends in cheap subscription services for Business OS's. Once Broadband Ramps up to 100Mbps speeds it's only a matter of time before OS Providers (MS, Apple, RedHat etc) offer 'Netboot' style managed subscription OS's with new applications installed, components updated etc all just a restart away.
When it happens you can kiss goodbye to a shedload of IT jobs.
I told my mate this is the way things would go over 5 years ago..
..but he thought I was drunk (quite possibly was, stationed in the union as I was).
I made up for it by telling my mum, but she just smiled.
A few comments...
1) You can't install apps, so it's only really much good for general browsing/light Office use etc. Which the machine you're using to access Nivio is probably good enough for...
2) I wouldn't trust the company hosting it as far as I could comfortably spit a rat. You have no idea what back doors/key loggers/sniffers are running on the machines
3) If the company goes under so does your machine and any files that are on it.
'Access it from anywhere' is a good idea, but it's not as trustworthy as using something like MojoPac to carry your virtual desktop around with you on a Pendrive, and you can put whatever apps you like on there.
And why would you want Apple Software Update on a Windows XP machine??
I am Iqbal Gandham, one of the founding team at Nivio. It's been a long journey and it’s nice to get some real feedback from users at last. Bryan's article has given you the highlights, so I thought I should answer a few of your questions.
@Gabriele: Developing countries are included in our model; I'm actually in India, typing this via Nivio, as we speak. Our research shows that the initial outlay combined with the problems of actually maintaining a working, patched, secure computer in remote areas presents a barrier for computer uptake. Nivio offers solutions to these issues.
The problem with bandwidth, we're going to have to hope the ISP's can fix....and they are, bandwidth availability is improving all the time.
As for carbon footprint and the environment, we haven't as yet done a calculation but if someone knows how to do an accurate one, do let us know.
We are seeing a shift in the developed world to a nomadic culture (webworkerdaily covers this well). In addition more and more people are opting for working at home, hence as you mentioned the business world could / would really benefit from Nivio, especially in terms of securing data, and providing the employees the freedom to operate from wherever they are.
@: times they are repeating: Great thing about fashion, it always comes back :-) ...well we hope. The idea behind Nivio does in some way model the thin client fat server model, we would however like to think that we have added enough bells and whistles ( Applications on demand is live, desktop synchronization is coming soon.), to move it away from a vanilla thin client, which is a little...out of fashion.
As you say, Nivio does give people the chance to "run" new apps on old hardware. Perhaps we really should push the green angle, cutting emissions and recycling...
@ Michael Davis: Obviously we don't condone anyone doing anything illegal on the system. IANAL but the exact legal position would depend on what you were doing and where you accessed the system from.
@Still need PC's for the browser : We recognized this is an issue, for example, when we looked at the Indian market we realized that around 80% of our potential market do not have a PC, hence we had to come up with a solution, unfortunately I can't say what it is yet. Watch this space.
@ Gary: Gaming is an interesting one since we can deliver all the power you could want off our grid, BUT, and yes there is a but, and it is a big one, the rate at which gaming requires screen refreshes poses a challenge. A challenge which we are throwing a lot of PhD’s at, and hopefully will come up with a creative answer to ...ideas welcome.
Nivio works great for patching, for the retail/commercial world that is a huge plus. There is also another angle just think of trying the latest OS and latest software without buying.
@Kevin O'Rourke: Without giving too much detail away, cost wise this is a valid solution for developing countries as long as the bandwidth is there, in the old days we needed roads for business, today we need bandwidth. The structure we have designed, our systems are not centralized, means that accessing from any country should not be a problem.
@Kevin Hall: I hear Citrix :-), well we always knew we would get compared, and it’s not a bad thing. The big difference is that with Citrix your IT manager needs to setup equipment. Citrix doesn't really give the user freedom, just the IT manager. Nivio gives you the freedom, all you need is a web browser. I guess each solution has its own space; our space is just bigger :-)
@Brian: "Service looks quite sweet” - thanks. The speed to us is crucial, without it Nivio does not work, we aim to maintain this speed...and hence Nivio’s benefits at all costs.
You guess correctly with some of the target market, the business world needs a few more value adds, which we are working on, and there are existing solutions which have tried to attack the business world. We felt a solution for the "normal" user was needed, and looking at the way things were moving, email online, project management online, CRM online, we just decided we may as well put all of windows online....I guess we could have called it Windows Live ;-)
Internet cafes are a target as a channel to market, but it is upto the user, they can use it where ever there is a browser.
Regarding applications on demand, we have just improved our control panel, you can select apps from there, we are adding to the list as fast as we can...but we need some help, we need to know which apps you would like, just tell us on our forum http://forum.nivio.com/
Video playback, yes a problem and one which is being addressed by those wearing white coats, its all down to buffering.
@Chris: Privacy, A little early to comment, but there is a reason why we are in Switzerland, of course we need to comply with the law but.....
Protecting data and ensuring access to data is vital. Next week a release of a little tool called Nivio Sync ( Took a long time to think of the name) will be released, this will allow you to upload/download and guess what ?, Sync all your files. Nivio is not about locking up your data, quite the reverse; instead it’s a way of giving you more freedom.
@Alan Edwards: Currently the only apps that you can install are listed within the Nivio Control Panel. If you select an application which is not on your desktop, but which is listed, it will be loaded onto your desktop immediately. Of course the list is limited initially, but as I said earlier if you require an app which is not listed, just pop along to our forum http:// forum.nivio.com and let us know what you require, we will try our best to get it online for you.
We recognize the privacy and security concerns that people using Nivio may have. As a business our success will lie in being open and upfront with our users to build trust. If we had sniffers or loggers, someone somewhere would eventually discover this, and Nivio would close overnight, this is a risk we will not take. Unfortunately these words will not give everyone comfort, hence we are looking into having Nivio verified by a third party.
Regarding safeguarding access to your data. There is always the possibility that a company could fail, however your files will not be lost, all data can be copied off Nivio using a our new Nivio Sync tool , slated to be released early next week, hence you can keep a copy of all your files locally if required.
Pen drives, will provide the right sort of access to files and applications for some people. They too however have their limitations, not least of which are the potential for loss or theft and the risk of virus infection when used on public access PCs.
As for the Apple software, this comes along with software such as iTunes, and allows Apple software to be updated.
Thanks to one and all for posting comments, if you wish to chat to me and the rest of the team just pop along to the Nivio forums highlighted above.
VNC has been doing this for donkeys years, you can stream the desktops of a number of different platforms to a browser based java applet (or the standalone client).
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