Amazon’s new thin client looks just like a Fire TV Cube…and that’s by design. The company announced this morning the launch of new $195 devices that allow business users to access virtual desktop environments, such as Amazon WorkSpaces, over the internet. The devices are equipped with Fire TV Cube hardware – a decision made by Amazon to use existing expertise from the arm of the retail giant that produces streaming media players.
The company explained its decision to develop new hardware from customer feedback about wanting to lower IT spending by replacing desktops and laptops with less expensive hardware. Today, many of Amazon’s business customers log on to virtual desktops based on AWS End User Computing Services, such as Amazon WorkSpaces, WorkSpaces Web, or Amazon AppStream, but they tend to do so on desktops or laptops that cost their boss $600 to $1200 each, Amazon says.
The new thin clients dramatically reduce the price, although they do not have all the capabilities of a dedicated PC. However, the idea is to offer customers a way to run new end-user hardware faster and at a cheaper price point. And when it came time to design the hardware, Amazon decided not to reinvent the wheel.
“We have a whole division in our company that’s already making the devices,” said Melissa Stein, product director for End User Computing at AWS, who oversees the Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client project, in a advertisement about new technology. “Combining expertise from the Amazon Devices team with logistics from Amazon Business and the power of the AWS Cloud is a strong combination for customers,” he added.
Although Stein’s team built a new software stack for the device, they didn’t have to build new hardware, which allowed them to keep costs down.
The resulting thin client offers low computing costs by offloading most of its processing power to the cloud, specifically the AWS Cloud. That means the device itself does not store data and only runs approved software deployed by IT, for added security. If a device is lost or stolen, company data remains safe in the cloud.
But unlike the Fire TV Cube, where consumers connect their entertainment devices, such as a TV, the thin client USB and HDMI ports support the connection of peripherals such as dual monitors, mouse, keyboard, camera, headset, etc. Internally, the team is building new firmware and software, including an operating system for employees to access their company’s cloud applications.
IT departments can also manage the devices remotely, allowing them to support customers or update the device for a new employee. They can access the AWS Management Console to check things – like which devices are active, and what version of software a device is running. Or, they can remotely reset a device or associate it with a new profile. In addition, administrators can configure groups of devices with their own policies, permissions, and access controls, to save time.
The thin clients also support on-device authentication and integration with Amazon’s virtual desktop services including WorkSpaces for persistent desktops, AppStream for non-persistent applications, and browser-only access to WorkSpaces Web.
The devices will be sold through Amazon’s B2B marketplace and can be ordered pre-configured so customers can be up and running in about 5 minutes, Amazon promises. That’s faster than the time it takes to configure laptops or company computers, which often take hours or days of IT time, it says.