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Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched its first enterprise thin client, one that bears more than a passing resemblance to one of its other devices.
November 27, 2023
“We looked for options and found the hardware we used for the Amazon Fire TV Cube provided all the resources customers needed to access their cloud-based virtual desktops,” said Melissa Stein, director of product for end user computing at AWS. “So, we built an entirely new software stack for that device, and since we didn’t have to design and build new hardware, we’re passing those savings along to customers.”
It certainly makes for a compelling story. It probably has nothing to do with Amazon’s decision 12 months ago to gut its Devices and Services division as part of a redundancy programme that axed 10,000 staff.
A cynic might suggest that AWS had to go with a pre-existing design because they didn’t have anyone left in house who could come up with a new one. But that’s far too cynical. This is surely another case of Amazon being clever and resourceful.
Regardless of AWS’ motivation for repurposing the Fire TV Cube, the fact is, the hyperscaler has brought to market a thin client priced at just $195 per device, which makes it considerably cheaper than a PC or laptop.
Called the WorkSpaces Thin Client, it is available from Amazon Business, its B2B marketplace. Once up and running, it can connect to all the necessary peripherals at the user’s end – dual monitors, mouse and keyboard, camera and headset – and all the cloud-based applications and services on the host’s end. What’s lacking on the device is storage, which should help when it comes to avoiding viruses and the like.
Stein said its low cost lends itself well to remote and hybrid working environments, and high turnover workplaces like call centres and payment processing.
“Applications are in the cloud, connectivity is there, and we want to be able to access our desktop from anywhere,” Stein said. “All at a time when customers are saying, ‘we really, really need to look at our overall cost equation.’
“IT leaders can easily manage their entire organisation’s device fleet centrally and typically have an employee up and running in a few minutes, compared to hours or days with traditional laptops and desktops,” she added.
The only problem is, the thin client market has been shrinking for the past three years. According to IDC in March, shipments fell 7.9% in 2022, and are expected to be flat this year before recovering in 2024.
This is probably another reason why Amazon is keen to keep the cost of its thin client as low as possible, on the off chance not enough companies buy them.
Thin clients are nothing new. Various OEMs, including household brands like Dell and HP, make thin clients designed to connect to Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity apps and Azure cloud services.
The other big hyperscaler, Google, takes a different approach. When it comes to enterprise hardware, rather than thin clients, it steers customers towards Chrome OS-powered laptops and tablets instead.
With WorkSpaces Thin Client, AWS is taking a similar kind of vertical integration approach that Apple does with its products and Microsoft does with Surface, launching a device that promises to offer the purest possible experience of AWS.
“We have an entire division in our company that makes devices already,” Stein said. “Combining the expertise from the Amazon Devices group with logistics from Amazon Business and the power of the AWS Cloud is a strong combination for customers.”
It’ll be interesting to see if this combination is successful in the struggling thin client market.
Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.
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