AWS plays with Fire TV Cube, turns it into a thin client for cloudy desktops
$195 a pop, delivered, pre-provisioned ready to stream desktops or apps
re:Invent Amazon Web Services has announced the WorkSpaces Thin Client – a device dedicated to connecting to its WorkSpaces desktop-as-a service offering and based on Amazon's own "Fire Cube" smart TV box.
The $195 machine has the same hardware as the Fire Cube: the eight-core Arm-powered Amlogic POP1-G SoC, plus 2GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 10/100 ethernet, and a single USB-A 2.0 port. Bluetooth is included to connect other peripherals. A second HDMI output can be added by acquiring an $85 hub that also offers four more USB ports.
Like the Fire TV Cube, the Thin Client also runs a modified cut of Android.
But there the similarities end. AWS created custom firmware and ripped out anything remotely related to running a consumer device, replacing it with software designed solely to create a secure connection between the device and desktops running in the Amazonian cloud.
Amazon Business – the B2B version of Jeff Bezos's digital souk – will ship the device to your door, and charge it to your AWS bill. At least if you are in the USA. Europe will get the Thin Client in early 2024, and it'll eventually migrate elsewhere.
AWS decided to base the box on the Fire Cube because, according to a corporate blog post, AWS customers expressed a desire for cheaper and easier-to-maintain client devices. As AWS execs searched for a well-priced box, they considered the Fire TV Cube, found it fit the bill and noted it was already being made at scale. Keeping things in-house made sense, too.
Also at Re:Invent
Amazon, as usual, has announced a truckload of stuff for its annual cloud conference, held this year in Las Vegas. We covered its CodeWhisperer updates here; the launch of its Graviton4 and Trainium2 chips here; SDKs for Rust and Kotlin right here; and its latest direction with AppFabric here along with a summary of other news.
In the meantime, here's some more bits and pieces you might want to know about from the conference:
- Amazon is teasing a Q chat-bot that lets you describe the cloud architecture you want, and it'll offer some AWS solutions to you, as well as generate content and other stuff. We have more on that here.
- It's also teasing safety guardrails for its Bedrock service that provides access to various AI models.
- Speaking of things in preview, there's also the Amazon Aurora Limitless Database that apparently offers "automated horizontal scaling to process millions of write transactions per second and manage petabytes of data in a single Aurora database."
- And, also in preview, Amazon Redshift ML can now ingest and output data in SUPER format and work with LLMs. Amazon Redshift also now has a bunch of zero-ETL integrations with AWS Databases.
- Amazon Redshift has gained support for multidimensional data layout sort keys to boost database performance.
- And Amazon ElastiCache Serverless is now available, we're told.
And so we find ourselves with AWS taking on established thin client providers. The cloudy concern is also keen to have a crack at the thick wedge of the enterprise PC market: call centers, payment processing centers, and other environments with lots of users and high staff turnover due to factors like seasonal demand for workers.
Muneer Mirza, AWS's general manager for end-user compute, told The Register that up to 70 percent of laptops sent to remote workers in those fields are never returned. Staff figure they can get away with pinching a PC, and businesses can't be bothered retrieving them. A $195 device therefore has considerable appeal compared to a more costly PC or laptop. That the device never stores data is thought to add to its appeal.
The Thin Client works with three AWS services: the full WorkSpaces streamed virtual desktop, the remote browser-as-a-service offering WorkSpaces Web, and the AppStream published apps service. Setup is said to require just five minutes of effort, as users' credentials and permissions are preset before the device is dispatched.
For now, buyers will only be able to use Amazonian services. Mirza said over time the cloud colossus hopes to offer access to other varieties of cloudy desktop.
- Microsoft's Swiss army knife app hopes to cut through cloud clutter
- AWS targets desktop virtualization rigs with lift and shift to cloudy DaaS
- Microsoft extends Teams into VMware and Citrix VDI
- Alibaba wants to get you off the PC upgrade treadmill and into its cloud
Thin clients and virtual desktops have historically accounted for around six percent of the PC market, but some analysts predict strong growth.
Cloud is changing the market for virtual desktops quickly. A decade ago, virtual desktops were synonymous with substantial SANs. Hyperconverged infrastructure removed that requirement, easing costs and adoption. Desktops streamed from the cloud are the field's latest change.
AWS has picked an interesting moment to enter the field: desktop virtualization stalwarts Citrix and VMware (by Broadcom) are both in transition and demonstrating little evidence they see cloudy desktops as crucial to their futures. It's also early days for Microsoft's Windows 365 Cloud PCs, with the OS behemoth only recently clarifying its plans for a client app. None of the other virtual desktop players have scale and reach to match AWS.
If the WorkSpaces Thin Client delivers – The Register has been promised access to a device so hopes to opine on that matter – AWS could give this corner of enterprise computing a shake. ®