Turn any display into a virtual PC with Dell's HDMI stick

LAS VEGAS—Dell this week unveiled a prototype of a pocket-sized HDMI stick that can turn any compatible display into a virtual PC capable of running Android apps or remotely accessing Windows apps on a cloud service or remote PC.

The concept device, called Project Ophelia, is the creation of Dell Wyse, the business unit formed from Dell’s recent acquisition of Wyse Technology. Former Wyse CEO Tarken Maner, now VP and general manager of Cloud Client Computing at Dell, expects the device to cost under $100 at launch.

The HDMI interface allows its use with big-screen displays such as HDTVs, making Project Ophelia a relatively inexpensive way to create a computer anywhere the stick can connect to a network via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Maner believes telecommunications companies wishing to sell cloud services (for example, access to Microsoft Office apps or data centers) might subsidize the device much the way they discount cell phones to customers who commit to service contracts.

However, Project Ophelia does face some significant potential obstacles. While many hotel rooms have TV sets with HDMI ports, keyboards and mice are not typically available—and if you have to bring them with you, you’ve now added both cost and bulk.

Connected to an MHL-compatible display, the stick requires no additional power (MHL, which stands for Mobile High-Definition Link, is technology that delivers power from the display to the device while displaying its contents). However, MHL is a relatively new technology and HDTVs that have it are just now starting to appear on the market. Without MHL, Project Ophelia must be charged via a USB connection.

Finally, inexpensive tablets can do much of what Dell’s dongle can—and they don’t involve the hassle of finding and setting up monitors, keyboards and mice since they already have a display and navigation functions. True, a good tablet with a decent sized screen is likely to cost more, but the tradeoffs may be worth it to many.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation’s largest consumer electronics show, check out complete coverage of CES 2013 from PCWorld and TechHive.

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