The German screen-sharing outfit Mikogo has jumped into a new line of business, releasing what it calls a “cloud desktop” – that is, a managed Windows desktop that runs in an HTML5 browser without need for any plugins, Java or special client apps.
The advantage of this approach is straightforward: it means you can access a proper Windows desktop (well, a Windows Server 2012 desktop in most cases) on devices ranging from other desktops to tablets to smartphones, if you can live with zooming in and out a lot. Call it a concession to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.
“The service itself consists of two parts: one is the gateway, which is highly secured — this is part of the HTML5 technology – and from there you can access the Microsoft OS on the backend,” Marcel Maron, Mikogo’s IT operations manager, told me.
The strange case of Windows in the cloud
The release of Mikogo Cloud Desktop reminds me somewhat of OnLive Desktop, which came out a year ago and is still a clear competitor, although OnLive’s product only works on tablets and requires the user to download an app.
When OnLive released its product, Microsoft threw a fit. OnLive was using the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) version of Windows 7, and Microsoft pointed out that the terms forbade this sort of thing – each customer was supposed to bring their own license to the party, and the hosting hardware was supposed to be dedicated, not shared.
That episode forced OnLive to change its model. The company switched to Windows Server, and that’s why we’re seeing Mikogo take a similar approach with its service. That said, if the customer wants to connect their own licensed terminal servers to the gateway, Mikogo is happy to accommodate – this raises the amusing prospect of running virtualized Windows 8 on an iPad, although I sincerely doubt that many enterprise users have made the jump to the newest Windows yet.
Assuming users want to avoid bringing their own servers into it, Mikogo has presence in data centers around the world. “Customers can decide to run on European or German-based servers only, or from U.S. servers,” Maron said.
Having had a quick play with Cloud Desktop through both desktop Chrome and iPad Safari, it seems to run pretty smoothly and with minimal lag. The fact that there is no setup required is a major plus, too.
Mikogo already has a large established customer base with over 3,000 corporate customers such as Disney and Thomson Reuters, and more than a million registered users. That should give it a running start on this new service.