4 Consumer Technologies That Could Change Your Enterprise

From technologies born out of gaming companies to hardware waterproofing products, we find some gems at the Consumer Electronics Show that CIOs will be glad to welcome to their IT shops.

By Rob Enderle
Thu, January 19, 2012

CIO — The Consumer Electronics Show is clearly focused on consumers but given that we are in the midst of the consumerization of IT era, the show bears watching. And judging from this year's event, it appears the consumer market is far from done with tossing stuff over the fence at IT. But some of these devices and technologies could actually make our jobs easier, at least in some cases.

OnLive Virtual Desktop

We've been looking at remote desktop solutions for well over a decade, ranging from software solutions like VDI and Citrix, to hardware-based solutions from Clear Cube and HP. At CES a new entry hit, called OnLive Desktop, that's based on more of a cutting edge computer gaming specification and technology than its predecessors. OnLive Desktop is a full Windows and Office desktop for iPad provided the same "instant-action" technology the company uses for its high performance games. (The offering will be "coming soon" for other platforms, including Android, iPhone, PC and Mac, as well as monitors and TVs, the company says.)

Historically virtual desktops were hampered by cost, dedicated wiring and performance limitations. Coming from the consumer side forced OnLive to address these problems before launch because consumers certainly aren't going to pay for a better network, unique hardware, or accept high monthly charges. In fact OnLive's initial per month charges were dropped last year and the service's first-tier service is free, albeit with a limited number of spots available. The next level up is a guaranteed class of service for $9.99 per month.

The service has been in use for the last year and while I've seen issues in hotels and areas with older or bottlenecked networks, in homes with high-bandwidth connections or businesses with well managed networks it has worked well - granted with few people on OnLive.

It's clear that OnLive will need an IBM or Dell class partner to create a broad market for OnLive Desktop. The company does plan to allow on-premise placement of servers for private cloud offerings, which will clearly come with some not insignificant initial costs or guarantees - currently under development. But given we think the future of the desktop is in the cloud, this is likely the strongest near-term working solution yet headed in that direction.

Ultrabooks

Ultrabooks promise the benefits of a MacBook Air but run Windows. This class of product typically starts under $1,000 and weighs less than 3 pounds. Past attempts at such platforms were either prohibitively expensive (often costing over $3,000) and/or with less than 2 hours battery life. In addition they tended to be consumer-only, lacking things like TPMs (Trusted Platform Modules), image management, and business support programs. The Dell XPS 13, launched at the show, is the harbinger of a trend to address such issues. It is attractive, thin, light, starts at less than $1,000 and has an estimated 8 hours of battery life. In addition it has a TPM, can be integrated into corporate buying programs, falls within image management offerings, and can be wrapped with enterprise services. The Dell XPX 13 joins the HP Folio, which came out last year, in that it is business-focused but the Dell offering more aggressively embraces the consumer side of the equation and the consumerization trend. So far it is the most balanced of the offerings brought to market and sets the standard for what I think will be an increasing wave of products designed to both appeal to consumers but work in the enterprise.

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