You can get email in a web browser, and even edit documents in a browser using web-based applications such as Google Docs, so why not go the whole hog and have your entire Windows desktop accessed via a browser?
One company that will soon offer users this option is Nivio. Its service lets users subscribe to access a Windows XP desktop through a browser for £7.99 per month. The desktop is hosted by Nivio, and accessed through any browser supporting Java or ActiveX.
Anyone who has used a service such as GoToMyPC or LogMeIn to view their PC desktop remotely will be familiar with the concept, but in this case the system you access isn't a real physical PC, but a virtual one living in a datacentre.
The drawback of this approach is that you can't install your own applications. Nivio provides a selection of free applications such as those from the OpenOffice.org suite, plus others such as Microsoft Office 2003 applications, which cost extra. Once you subscribe to an application, its shortcut appears on your desktop and the app itself is streamed in when you access it.
As you can see from the screenshot, a Nivio hosted desktop is nothing really exceptional to look at – it looks pretty much the same as any other Windows XP desktop, as it should.
Nivio believes that this service could save smaller companies on the cost of owning and managing their own PCs. Customers could instead use terminals or outmoded PCs to access a Windows XP desktop remotely. However, you would have to be pretty confident about the reliability of your internet connection to follow this route.
Another drawback is the difficulty of getting data files on and off your virtual desktop. Nivio provides an application to let you upload and download files, but for this you need….a Windows PC.
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