back to article AWS plays with Fire TV Cube, turns it into a thin client for cloudy desktops

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/ …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Er, is this article 15 years old ?

    15 years ago, we were sending out thin client boxes (HP IIRC) that terminal-served into our virtualised environment.

    Specifically for the sales guys who "lost" laptops out in the field.

    there really is "nothing new under the sun".

    1. FlamingDeath Silver badge

      Re: Er, is this article 15 years old ?

      Wait until this method is enforced

      The idea might not be new, but when its the only permissible choice, that will be new.

      In the future, you won’t even be able scratch your arse without some data broker knowing about it

      1. spireite Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Er, is this article 15 years old ?

        That technology has already been done too....

        It was called a thumb drive.

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Er, is this article 15 years old ?

        The future? Funny way to spell present. They already know which hand, how many times and which direction you wipe.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Er, is this article 15 years old ?

      But Amazon wasn't building them then. It's not that the concept is new, just that another company has decided to make them, and maybe they'll have more success as they also provide the remote desktops and surely somebody must be running them. Meanwhile, I've worked at companies using AWS but they aren't using AWS-located desktops any more than anyone was using Microsoft's Azure remote desktops.

    3. David 132 Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Er, is this article 15 years old ?

      The article may or may not be 15 years old, but I'm not sure the hardware specs are any newer. 10/100 Ethernet? Really? On a box that's got no local smarts or storage and needs everything piped to it from the network?

      What is this, 1996? I can't remember the last time I saw a client device whose ethernet wasn't at least Gigabit.

  2. Denarius

    only 15 years ?

    Sun had diskless workstation available when ? 1990s ?

    1. spireite Silver badge

      Re: only 15 years ?

      I remember trialling Wyse kit.... way back in the day.

      As with everyone at that time, that was an attempt to save tons of money to avoid buying much pricier desktops/laptops.

      It rapidly became obvious that for the use case my company, it wasn't very..... Wyse... to pursue them

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: only 15 years ?

        I remember trialling Wyse kit.... way back in the day.

        Ahh.. the mysteries of bootp and WHY THE HELL WON'T IT BOOT!..

        (My memories are fuzzy but I seem to remember that the bootp docs were good but Wyse wanted things set up in a very specific manner, not covered by the various docs that I had. This was when the internet was very much a fledging thing and gopher/WAIS were not really much help. And even 'techie' companies like Wyse had websites that were very little more than a glorified sales brochure.

        And, of course, once we finally got everything working, manglement wanted to go a different direction and never actually used Wyse terminals.

    2. Tim99 Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: only 15 years ?

      ...and we ran diskless XTs with Novell servers in the 1980s, and before that there were terminals that could do some limited local processing...

      1. rajivdx

        Re: only 15 years ?

        It's not an XT if it's diskless... :p

        1. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: only 15 years ?

          True, senility kicks in. We only bought XTs if the punter needed local storage and processing. Most of my installs were ATs. We had a Volume Workstation Agreement which allowed a significant discount (30%?). The policy continued at a low level with PS2s, but must of the systems were cheaper "built to specification" from companies like Arch. The diskless stuff was mainly for typing pools, and mainframe access...

  3. TonyJ

    Overpriced

    Back in 2017/18 I developed a Citrix solution for a well known retailer for their stores. Around 22,000 Dell (Wyse, as had been) ThinOS thin clients.

    Everything designed to remain in long term support, given their penchance for updating every decade or so.

    They were significantly cheaper than these devices and did everything needed and did it well.

    But I was putting thin client devices with Win CE or early version of Linux in way back in the early-mid 2000's.

    I think Amazon have missed the point of them - cheap and cheerful devices that are at a throwaway price. For this price you can just buy a cheap entry level laptop and turn it into a thin client for less.

  4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    I never really understood why a computing model arranged around large tablet computers with keyboards and mice never took off in offices, let alone home environments.

    If you look around, you can see reasonably spec'd android tablets from around the £100 mark retail, and some of these come with keyboards bundled. OK, the screen is a bit small and the keyboard is generally crap, but you can use as good a USB keyboard and mouse as you want. I cannot imagine that in this day and age of cheap LCD panels, marrying up a 16" or larger full HD panel to the electronics in a cheap tablet would be hugely more expensive at scale.

    With the rise of VPNs and office applications delivered through a browser, I cannot understand why these have not dominated basic workstation deployments. I mean, it's not as if a majority of people with screens and keyboards on their desk in a call centre or basic office job actually use more than a fraction of the power of their Windows PC. Put these devices on every desk, and make them fixed with the user's environment mobile, as in the days of disk-less workstations and X terminals, any you have not tied people to a desk because the PC has 'their' setup. The way things are going, companies will be paying for monthly subscriptions to remote office applications anyway, even if they have a small form PC or laptop.

    Seems to me that you could provision a fixed workstation at a much lower price than even the small/mini/micro PC's that appear to be appearing on the desks of offices, and probably have much lower maintenance costs as well.

    Of course, some people need more mobility, and thus something more like a full laptop, but I'm sure a lot of basic users leave their jobs behind in the office when they leave for the day.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Actually, I suppose I can. I've really described a Chromos laptop haven't I, and these things exist and sell in quite large numbers.

      I guess it's businesses obsession with Windows that is preventing it.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      I can't really see why a business should bother. You can run everything on a $100 Android tablet, but not very well, which means you'll probably end up outsourcing some of it to a remote desktop somewhere. If you're doing that, why not spend slightly more on the computer and have most or all of that run on that instead? Similarly for the choice between a tablet and a laptop. Why use a cheap tablet and separate peripherals when, for around the price of all that stuff, you can buy a laptop which has all of those and is more easily transportable?

      I imagine that any cost savings on the hardware will be wiped out by getting all the software to run well in an Android environment and more frequent hardware replacement. I, for one, do not want my business software running on the average Android tablet running who-knows-what software, no security updates, and no ability to apply a reasonable corporate standard to the above. Not to mention that many businesses are willing to buy laptops, Windows, Mac, or Chrome OS, that are much more expensive than they really need. If they're willing to pay 50% more than they need to, maybe the cost savings on a one-off purchase for several years isn't very concerning to them.

  5. thondwe

    Overcrowded Niche?

    So another entry in the overcrowded niche for thin clients - always as expensive as a low end laptop and pretty useless without an network connection - add a monitor - who's going to want to use their own TV and a keyboard etc...

    Yes I get security, but If you want to do this - why not just get into the "refurbished" laptop market and stick chromos on them?

    1. TonyJ

      Re: Overcrowded Niche?

      Honestly I've never been a fan of any kind of VDI based solution.

      Does it have niche use cases? Sure.

      But - you are taking the complexity of a workstation based OS and adding in the complexity of server backend, and usually need to provide performant storage and network backend on top of it.

      I've yet to see much of anything that can be done in VDI that cannot be achieved in RDS (add Citrix if you have a need to but I don't think that's been the case for a long time now).

      I even got to experiment with a couple of R/Pi based thin clients a few years ago. They were neat little devices but could struggle under load (think Skype for Business video calling) and the then management backend was clunky at best, but it was a good idea, just (my opinion) poorly recognised.

      It felt like going back to the early WinCE Wyse days - they just weren't any use for anything other than the most basic of tasks. Mind you, it's also worth mentioning that I didn't spend much time trying to optimise them. Plus when you added the screen and keyboards on, they crept above the price of the aforementioned ThinOS machines and they just worked and worked well.

      Again though - a late entrant to a crowded market that is saturated by solutions looking for problems to apply them to.

      1. Peter-Waterman1

        Re: Overcrowded Niche?

        I am using VDI, and as someone who travels a lot, I see benefits to VDI. What I like is that I can use my (personal) gaming laptop everywhere and then connect to my workspace (VDI) when I need to access the corp network. A lot of apps sit behind a reverse proxy that is internet-facing; I can surf the company intranet and get to the tools I need from my gaming laptop that isn't under MDM without using VDI. For those few apps I cant get to, I fire up VDI and log in. I also have WhatsApp on my VDI machine, my gaming laptop, and my phone. I can share files instantly between them, and that works out pretty well.

        What's crap is being on the train (anywhere without a 4G connection), needing to connect to the network and realising you are stuck...Still, for me, getting to travel with my gaming laptop makes that worthwhile.

        1. TonyJ

          Re: Overcrowded Niche?

          To my point though - nothing you are doing there needs VDI. It can all be done by RDS (and/or a combination of web-based apps these days).

  6. Timo

    unloading unloved FireTV hardware?

    This seems like a side project to find another market for those devices.

    Has Amazon published sales figures for the FireTV platform? Reviews are mixed, many noting the cost of the device and the amount of ads. Doesn't seem like it fills a need, there are other devices from Amazon itself, or Roku, that are cheaper. Or for that kind of money you could get an Apple TV device.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: unloading unloved FireTV hardware?

      Wait. Ads?

      Kill it with fire.

  7. FIA Silver badge

    Thin clients seem to be like the waterfall approach to software development.

    We know people don't want them, and they don't really work that well, but yet people are still convinced they're a good idea.

  8. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    shuttle to mission control SAY AGAIN

    "Setup is said to require just five minutes of effort, as users' credentials and permissions are preset before the device is dispatched."

    Amazon needs the end user credentials? What kind of thin client implementation is this?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: shuttle to mission control SAY AGAIN

      Presumably, they are set by the company admins before they dispatch the device to its eventual user, not by Amazon before they deliver it to the company. Therefore, the user would not need to set them when they start it up, and time from receiving the device to logging in would be short. At least, that's what I think they were saying.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: shuttle to mission control SAY AGAIN

        Thank you, I hope you're right. As written, it is ambiguous, and I interpreted it in the same way as yetanotheraoc.

        "Dear Amazon, I hope you are well. Please sell us 5000 of your thin client devices. The usernames and passwords to be pre-loaded onto them are below:

        1) jdoe / sw0rdf1sh

        2) fbloggs / 0p3nsesamE

        ....etc..."

    2. rajivdx

      Re: shuttle to mission control SAY AGAIN

      We've logged everything in for you, but we shipped it to the wrong address...

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: shuttle to mission control SAY AGAIN

        "but not to worry, because luckily your devices were in one of our vans that had an unfortunate mishap on the A47 in Cambridgeshire yesterday..."

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