Intel researchers have developed a technology that gives users access to one set of applications and data on multiple computers.
The technology, dubbed Internet Suspend and Resume, stores a full copy of a user's operating system, applications and data on a central server.
The technology enables users to work on a desktop computer at their office, a laptop on the road and another desktop at a remote location or at home.
Users still access all the data on their local computer, but the content of their hard drives is periodically synchronised with the centrally stored image on the server. IT managers gain the benefits of centralised desktop management associated with thin clients.
Internet Suspend and Resume seeks to offer a middle road between thin clients and traditional desktop computers.
"We're trying to find a situation where you get the best of both worlds," said Kozuch. "We designed this for manageability without sacrificing performance."
Thin client systems give employees access to applications from a dumb terminal, with the data and applications residing on a server. The lack of data sitting on the user's desk can dramatically cut costs in large organisations.
But despite the potential cost savings, the 'stateless' computers have not proved popular with users. The technology requires a large up-front investment in servers for the back office, and has faced a number of cultural challenges.
Not all software will work on a thin client computer, and because the technology requires a network connection it will fail if the connection is anything less than optimal, as is often the case with remote workers connecting via dial-up or GPRS.
The Intel technology aims to deal with these problems, giving organisations the ease and cost savings of centralising all operating systems on a central server while providing end users with the level of control and flexibility which they expect.
Intel has been testing Internet Suspend and Resume at Carnegie Mellon University over the past six months.
Kozuch would not say how the company plans to move forward with commercialising the research project.
Thin client technology is a hot topic with research departments at hi-tech companies. Sun Microsystems showed off several research projects in April aimed at increasing the technology's appeal.
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