Amazon Web Services has stolen a march on Microsoft's cloud desktop plans by adding browser access to its WorkSpaces desktop-as-a-service offering.
Browser access will only work for WorkSpaces running Windows. Linux users are out in the cold and AWS hasn't said when or if penguin-powered desktops will get to play. The service uses Amazon's WorkSpaces Streaming Protocol (WSP), which doesn't allow use of graphics-intensive instance types. AWS customers that run WorkSpaces from the Asia Pacific (Mumbai) and GovCloud (US-West) Regions also need not apply.
For the rest of us, the service means browsers are now approved clients for an AWS WorkSpace – but not without complications. WorkSpaces set up to stream over the PCoIP protocol will work in Chrome or Firefox. WSP WorkSpaces can use any Chromium-based browser.
AWS's rationale for the new access offering is that it "allows users to remain productive when connecting from computers where a web browser experience may be optimal, for example on personally-owned or locked-down devices where installing and maintaining a client application can be challenging."
Which sounds reasonable given there's been quite an increase in working remotely lately for … certain reasons about which The Register assumes readers don't need to be reminded.
AWS's documentation for the option doesn't suggest it costs any more than the current option to access WorkSpaces with a client app.
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The service is not a flick-a-switch affair. Would-be users will need to enable web access for their workspaces, tickle some network settings, and then reboot the virtual PC.
AWS's addition of web access for WorkSpaces comes hot on the heels of Microsoft's announcement of cloudy PCs under the Windows 365 moniker. Microsoft's forthcoming services will also include web access.
Microsoft styles Windows 365 as SaaS – a contrast with the PaaS approach of its Azure Virtual desktop. AWS WorkSpaces are in the latter camp, so adding web access is nice but won't really make the service a direct challenge to Windows 365. ®