Mocha VNC and G.ho.st: Mobile Access to Your Desktop

A little over a six weeks ago, I finally switched to an iPhone 3G – I’d been holding out for the white 16GB model to arrive in the UK and pounced as soon as they started to arrive at O2 stores.

I’ve been as enchanted with the mix of goofy and useful applications from the iTunes App Store as anyone else. Initially, I sought to find and install the mobile counterparts of my desktop and web-based applications – eBay, Facebook, Twitteriffic, Last.fm, WordPress, etc

Of course, the real value of iPhone applications are in areas which truly leverage mobility – eBay as an iPhone app is only marginally more useful than eBay running in Safari on an iPhone.

However, there’s a class of iPhone app emerging that seeks to exploit mobility in ways that were previously difficult to conceive.

Mobile Safari has illustrated that phones can simply be conceptualized as handheld windows into the wider web. What applications such as Mocha VNC and G.ho.st illustrate is that a mobile handset can also be a window into remote computing resources.

Both applications enable users to remotely access a computer’s desktop; Mocha VNC is iPhone-specific and based on the VNC protocol (the virtues of which Samuel Dean covered recently) whereas G.ho.st supports a number of handsets, by dint of its browser-based client. Of course VNC servers can run on Linux, Windows and OS X desktops, bringing a kind of virtualization-lite to the iPhone platform.

I paired my new iPhone with my MacBook Pro’s desktop using Mocha VNC and my domestic WiFi network. The results were surprisingly responsive, with the iPhone rendering a legible, zoom-able, thumbnail of my Mac’s desktop. With some tweaks, Mocha and G.ho.st could enable mobile users to tap the full power of desktop computers from a handheld device…albeit with a cost in battery life, data charges and network latency.

Mocha is currently available as a free app, accompanied by a paid, more fully featured edition. You can learn more about Gh.os.st here and Mocha VNC here.

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