Brian & Gabe LIVE #16: with guest Tom Flynn, talking about thin clients.

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Today's Brian & Gabe (& Jack) LIVE was about client devices. Windows 8 tablets, thin client tablets, ARM versus x86, iOS versus Windows, zero versus thin.




Brian: Theme music, theme music. Hello.

Jack: Sounds vaguely like Eminem.

Brian Tuesday, January 31st, 2012.  This is Brian Madden.  You’re listening to Brian and Gabe and Jack Live.  So, hello. 

Gabe: It’s good.  It’s been a long time since we’ve done one of these.

Brian: Yeah, so Gabe sounds like a Skype robot so we’ll see how that thing works out.  Jack, you’re here in the studio.

Jack: Right here.

Brian: Thank you.  And also on Skype we have Tom Flynn.  Hello.

Tom Flynn: Hey, how are you doing, Brian?

Brian: I’m great.  And you sound great, so Tom is – we – well, first of all, he’s – I think you or your people started this fad of vendors giving us cookies, cupcakes, cakes, these kinds of products. I think you for that.

Tom Flynn: Oh, yes, we are a trend setter. 

Brian: Amazing, yeah, way to go.  So, Tom, you’re the CTO of HP’s thin client group.  Was it called thin client group, end user computing, zero clients?

Tom Flynn: So it’s, in the commercials solutions business group the thin client part, yeah.

Brian: And Gabe and I visited you a few weeks ago just to sort of talk about HP’s latest thin clients and stuff and our idea is not to talk today bout HP’s stuff but it’s really the conversations we had over cookies and lunch where we talked about thin clients in general and zero clients and Android verses Windows 8 verses Arm verses thin client clients and all this kind of stuff.  And it’s really a fascinating conversation so we figured it would be cool to have your on the show and just continue this conversation with everyone joining in.

Tom Flynn: All right, well, thanks.

Brian: And I guess if someone – we have some people in the chat room so hopefully maybe if someone is listening in the chat room, just type that you can hear us talking right now.  As we had the issue last week where  the thing was not going out live.  Jack, actually, why don’t you type in there that we’re broadcasting and just ask them in the chartroom.

Jack: It’ll take ‘em a few seconds to get it.

Brian: We believe that the problem last week was related to Amazon ‘cause we changed nothing and tried it a day later and it all worked, so hopefully this gets some kind of feedback that people are able to hear us. Okay, awesome.  So let’s kind of jump into this.  So what’s on your mind, thin clients, anyone?

Tom Flynn: I love thin clients.

Jack: Well we didn’t – which thing that we saw did you actually write about, Brian, which video did we put up?

Brian: Okay, so one thing we put up is Tom showed us a new thing, it’s not a product yet but sort of a new technology demonstration where it’s a very low cost, Tom, I don’t believe you called it zero client, I think it was sort of smart zero.

Tom Flynn: Smart client, yeah.

Brian: Smart client, yeah.  Like a $200.00 zero client, like sort of cheapish low cost device but that could run different, but has a DSP in it and then it could download different sort of protocol driver packages, it would actually run on a DSP so it could become a PC client or an HDX thin client or RemoteFX and get pretty good performance but it was an only $200.00 thing.  Whereas in the past, you either had to have zero clients that operated in hardware, which were also like $200.00 but then you’re locked into the hardware of the one specific protocol you bought first and if you decide to switch from PC to RemoteFX you’re SOL.  Or the clients were doing a software that were more expensive like $400.00 or $500.00 each so I think the thing there was it was a flexible thin client, it could any of the protocols and it only cost $200.00.

And so –

Jack: Did we get that right?

Brian: Yeah, I think that’s what we saw.

Tom Flynn: Yeah, that’s what you saw.

Jack: And that’s sort of – we saw the smart zero client concept at BriForum a little bit but this is all about doing it with low cost hardware, so the concept of redeploying the same piece of hardware as a different, to support a different platform isn’t new but doing it on such inexpensive hardware with the performance that we saw in the video, that’s the remarkable thing because before we were doing it on a $400.00’ish thin client when we saw it at BriForum but now we’re talking $200.00’ish thin clients, right?

Tom Flynn: That’s right, that was the whole goal and the whole part of this whole research project was to see, could you do it, right?  I mean that’s what we wanted to see if, could we deliver that level of performance in pretty much just half the cost of it for these single purpose devices, they’re single purpose at the time they’re being used but then you could repurpose them to be different protocols if you choose to with the click of a button.

Brian: Right, so how often does HP get this in their head that, oh, we’re just going to try this and see if it works and then, it bombs miserably and it never sees the light of day, like is this – did this have a 1 in 10 chance of making it?

Tom Flynn: So just like all the – yeah, so it probably did have a – early on, a low likelihood just because this is not something we just started, I mean we’ve been – we had this technology style in the labs for about six years. And we tried it with, a long time ago in our labs with RGS protocol to see if we could do it, but the core DSP technology just wasn’t ready yet to deliver the experience that we wanted so we had to let the evolve a little bit.

Brian: I bet the DPS people said that your protocol wasn’t ready.

Tom Flynn: They probably did, but the idea was, could you do it? So it’s been an ongoing kind of proof of concept.  We did it there, we did it with just our affects only in Berlin a year and a half ago, and then we decided that to try this product demonstrator or proof of concept kind of thing with multiple protocols, so that’s what we’ve been working on in the labs to see.  So it takes awhile, it has to be ready, it has to hit all the things that a customer expects, right, so –

Brian: Sure. There’s – how does this work, I mean so there’s the DSP which is doing sort of the heavy lifting of the protocol decoding.  Does – do you guys have to write the software, like did you need to write – I might be using the wrong words here, like a remote affects client that runs in the DSP in order for it to work with RemoteFX?

Tom Flynn: So, yeah, so us with our partners, we had to do that. So that was part of the issue, we had to take the Microsoft decode engine that either they did as a hardware definition or as a software codec and we had to have it rewritten to go into the DSP so take it from the C plus plus and all that stuff and N line C for optimal execution to get it into the DSP.

Brian: And what’s the story with HDX because there was some conversation in the comments of that article about this is, because someone said, oh, I’m surprised that they’re doing this, something about that with like, with Citrix doing HDX on a chip and I kind of said, no, this is what Citrix demonstrates with HDX on a chip and then they said, no, it wasn’t.  And I don’t know, now you can straighten us out.

Tom Flynn: Okay.  So in general, we do know, we’re a good Citrix partner, we do know all about what they’re doing with their HDX sock.  As a matter of fact, we were in their marketing announcement and all that stuff.  Jeff Gredan had a nice piece in there, but the core chip technology is the same as what we’re using so they’re using the same, one of the chips, anyway is the TI chip that we’re using. So we’re real convinced that it’ll work, but we’re not going to announce things for Citrix, right, we’ll let Citrix, as a good partner, make their own statements so we’re aware of it, we’re pretty convinced that it’ll work in this architecture, so –

Brian: So when they say it’s like HDX on a chip, it doesn’t mean – so they’re using the same DSP, it doesn’t literally mean that they have like an asic with all the gates burned into it to only be HDX code, rather it still has some kind of – it’s coming from somewhere like in software, right, like even if it’s a firmware thing or something like that and it’s just running on the DSP instead of running on an X86 or arm?

Tom Flynn: So I’m going to have to let Citrix answer that question for you because I don’t know if they do have those kind of plans.  I do know that our plans would be to leverage the arm with DSP.

Brian: Well that’s right, because your thing, it’s arm and DSP are on the same dye.

Tom Flynn: It’s the same dye, it’s the same chip, it’s a single system on chip and our goal around all this stuff was to target our customer, to give them the flexibility of hardware performance but chose whichever platform they want to – whatever they want to run, whether they want to connect to VMWare or they want to connect to Citrix or they want to connect to Microsoft, we wanted a device that made it easier for our customer.

Brian: So in your case, this little $200.00 thing, it is a software package essentially it’s downloading and then depending on when it boots up, it looks at the configuration and checks to see whether it should download the remote affects package or the HDX package or whatever.

Tom Flynn: Right, that’s what it does and it does that the first time, it’ll check to see if you ever have any updates for it. Because the other thing that made us a little hesitant about doing a pure hardware answer is what happens when the protocol changes?

Brian: Yeah, and what – so to that end, I guess, there’s different levels of support too ‘cause I know like Ys, they have the Y’s Zenith which they said was like HDX ready and then that was with the zero clients, that also had the kind of DSP to help them execute, it had – but then after that was released and then they released like the Y Zenith Pro which was a bigger model with more horsepower and they said, that one’s also HDX ready but then you look into and find that HDX ready actually means different things to different people like HDX ready doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you can do client side audio or media streamers or anything like that.  So is there – I know this is like a demonstration at this point but like what level of HDX does this support?

Tom Flynn: So right now it’s a demonstrator so we haven’t qualified it with HDX.  We haven’t gone through the qualification process, so being as it’s a product demonstrator I really can’t say, but our goal, if we make something product, would be to obtain the highest possible level of HDX certification.

Brian: Incidentally, we had a question come in on the chat room that I don’t even know what this means, so it says, when is HP, and I don’t know if you know this but I’m just goin to throw it out there. When is HP going to support Citrix receiver version 12 slash Lenox thin pro, thin clients, specifically to get HDX flash reduction.  So I guess they’re looking for when they get HDX flash reduction on thin pro.

Tom Flynn: So when we – as soon as we get it from Citrix, shortly thereafter we’ll add it as an add on for our existing thin pro.  We’ll have to qualify it and make sure it meets all of our qualification tests and when we do receive it and then we’ll add as an add on so the customers can download it from our website and then later on we’ll integrate it into our image and our normal cycle.

Brian: So I want to back up a little bit and look at thin clients in general and I wonder, Tom, if you can provide sort of your perspective, I mean, I go back and forth on thin clients and – ‘cause when Gabe and I got involved in Citrix in the late ‘90s, that’s when we were sort of introduced to what we call Windows based terminal and kind of reintroduced to the whole Windows thin client concept and obviously all our thin clients, eventually we thought, oh, thin clients are going to be on every single desk, in replace of desk tops.  They weren’t going to replace laptops and I don’t know if there’s 500, 600, 700 million corporate PCs in the world, I don’t know what breakdown of those are laptops verses desktops but this whole thin client thing, I don’t know if you guys have announced your numbers like is this thin client market measured in millions of thin clients or tens of millions or hundreds of millions and do you see – is the market growing or tools replacing older thin clients?

Tom Flynn: So IDC posts the numbers, right, so it’s in millions, right, is the thin client market.  HP doesn’t really comment on our individual sales.  But, yeah, it’s a growing market.  We see it growing.  I mean the market itself, about 20% a year so it’s a healthy market, it’s growing pretty nicely.  We think it’s – use cases have changed a lot because the last five years it’s gone from task worker primarily executing, server based computing applications to the driver being VDI and of course VDI had its ups and downs in getting adoption within our customers but it’s starting to cycle up, so we think the future looks pretty bright for thin clients.

Brian: So people are really using these things for VDI?

Tom Flynn: Yes.

Brian: And I guess, is it true that with VDI, I imagine that’s where you want a more powerful thin client because if you’re using VDI you’re probably using it with multiple monitors and probably have peripherals and all that kind of stuff?

Tom Flynn: So, yes.  So you do, I mean our – the top of the line normally is the preferred platform for VDI.  Our flexible series has always been the west or thin probe base ones have always been the tough ones for choice with VDI.  But who knows, this product concept we showed you could probably help out a bit.

Brian: And so does – do you comment – I don’t know if you can talk publically on the breakdown between the numbers of thin clients you have on thin pro verses Windows embedded?

Tom Flynn: No, we don’t comment about that.

Brian: What do you find the people use – are there certain scenarios where they use, ‘cause like you mentioned so if they’re doing VDI it tends to go with the higher thin client that has Windows embedded or thin probe, how can we make a breakdown like if we’re thinking about whether it’s used with thin probe, thin client or Windows embedded thin client.

Tom Flynn: Could you say that again?

Brian: Like if – how do people decide if they want to use thin probe verses Windows on their compliant?

Tom Flynn: So I think one of the primary drivers our customers have for deciding which they want to do is what they’re most familiar with.  Those that are real family with the Windows eco system and feel real comfortable, purchase our Windows embedded versions of the 5700 series.  And we’ve been really successful with that.  I think the next six competitors or so added together kind of equal what we do in Windows embedded so we’re pretty, at a pretty good position around Windows embedded and then the thin pro, those that chose that, one of the key drivers is they didn’t want Windows on the end point.  I mean that was just a customer choice. 

So that seems to be the key is, they’re either real familiar with Windows and they want to keep Windows and have some application like their VPN or some software that they use on their standard PCs that they want to put on their thin client or they want something that’s not windows.

Brian: If they buy Windows on a thin client, does that cost more ‘cause you have to pay for the Windows embedded license?

Tom Flynn: So the – and it’s a little richer configuration in the Windows embedded systems.

Brian: Oh, just because it would need more hardware typically.

Tom Flynn: It needs more hardware typically and there is a license fee verses no license fee so there’s a difference.

Brian: If the customer has SA, they don’t get – it’s not like they – they can’t avoid paying for Windows license, Windows embedded because Windows embedded is a separate thing from SA so if you’re self covered on SA you don’t get like Windows embedded for free, you still have to buy that from –

Tom Flynn: Well I’m not going to – I can’t really speak for Microsoft licensing but it’s my understanding that every Windows PC that’s enrolled in SA has a base operating system from the OEM and then SA is just enhanced rights.

Brian: Oh, right, okay, yeah.

Tom Flynn: So –

Jack: We can add that to the list of questions for Nathan Cotinho.

Brian: And we can add that for Microsoft.  I’m pissed at Microsoft right now so if anyone from them is listening, this whole thing about, by the way –

Jack: This is a good segue, why are you pissed at Microsoft?

Brian: Let’s not talk about that for now, that’s why off topic.  But, like F them.  And so I think I’m going to take my MVP award and get a giant blender and blend it and like make it, will my MVP award blend, they can go shove it up their, but anyway, I’m so pissed at them right now.  But moving on, so changing topic a little bit, so RGS, where – and this – I want to sort of talk about this sort of future stuff and trends and thin clients and stuff but I’ve got a whole bunch of questions popping up especially now that we’ve got you on the phone.  But can you get – so RGS, like where’s RGS now?

Tom Flynn: So RGS is a product within the commercial solutions business group.  We principally have kind of – it’s used principally with our work stations or with belated work stations offered by our server division.  And that’s where it’s been because it’s rich ability, it’s got a lot of specialized enhancements that are above the standard remote protocol, but it is an image based protocol and it does require the graphics card on the sender so it’s an ideal kind of answer for those that need really, really rich content delivery, any kind of content because it’s a – because it’s image based, right, it’ll deliver anything.  And it’s ideal in financial markets, those kind of places, engineering users, access in their work stations from another device, so that’s a lot of places that it’s used.

It has a pretty healthy customer base.  We’re probably not pushing it real hard as a remote protocol for like a VDI.  We think for the standard users, the industry’s kind of caught up a bit for the kind of standard use case.

Brian: Is the – most thin clients, this technology demonstration with the DSP, is there an RGS package for that also?

Tom Flynn: So we didn’t put one together for this, we did that as a kind of prototype five, six years ago to see if we could but we kind of decided that if we were going to do these technology demonstration that we’d just go in the mainstream of the thin client market and see what we could do there.

Brian: Let’s talk a little bit about these laptop thin clients and I have one of the HP, what is it called, net book, pro book, what’s the HP thin client laptop?

Tom Flynn: It’s a –

Brian: It’s sitting on Justin’s desk right out there. Hey, what’s that HP thin client called on your desk?  Pro book, that’s what it is.  This is the one I used, remember, so I did this test a year ago where I used only VDI for like two months, and I used PC [inaudible] for a month and I used HDX for a month and so I had this HP thin client, like I’m using air quotes here, really affective with audio only programming.  I had this HD air quotes thin clients but it’s got Windows embedded on it, right, so it was about, I don’t know, a day before I forgot how to turn off the right filter and then I was basically, I was running around with an embedded version of Windows because I could stay make drop box on it and I had IE. I didn’t install Office on it but I had my remote protocol environments but come on, it held the whole –

Jack: And so how did this account for your test?

Brian: Yeah. But this is – so for these thin client laptops, everyone makes them but, Tom, where do people use these things?

Tom Flynn: So typically, a lot of thin clients, they’re used mainly for people who want security, right, so you don’t put any data local on the device and it’s often used in the mobility where you don’t need any kind of offline access, so if you’re not going to be on trains, planes, you’re just going to be essentially a hallway wonderer and you take your mobile thin client from meeting to meeting or you take it home for remote access.  So if you’re concerned about security, low maintenance because, well you turned the right filter on and off but you had the administrative knowledge, right so a customer typically wouldn’t allow an end user to have administrative rights.

But because it does have a file based right filter, you could allow those things if you wanted to, right, a few spots they could do thing and that’s a customer choice.  And it fits in pretty nicely into their existing environment because I can use my same VPN so for the IT organization it makes it a little bit easier.  So they’re using it for remote access and they need to take it with them to go to different places but it’s not really targeted for offline access, so the guys that work on planes and trains and –

Brian: Right.  Do you think there’s a future, and I’m asking Tom, Gabe, Jack, I’m not sure who exactly – I mean is there a future where, like if you look at the Chrome book, so that comes out in a laptop form factor and it’s supposed to be a thin client in that you’re not really managing the device but it does have writing enable so it can do caching and it can install like Chrome applications and your bookmarks and that kind of stuff, is there a future of Windows, I’m not sure why I’m asking this exactly.  Like I did the article a little while ago where I said that my personal laptop, it’s like a regular laptop that runs a regular OS and I kind of claimed it was like  thin client or was like a cloud based desktop because even though I had local applications installed on it, all my data was synced with the cloud, my media files were synched with the cloud.  If I lost it, it was encrypted and if I lost it I could rebuild it and pull everything back down again.  

So I don’t know if this is a stretch in the definition but I almost kind of feel like my laptop is kind of like a thin client even though it works offline and I’m running things on it.  I’m kind of going with this, if you look at that or with the Chrome book, do you think there’s a future for organizations to have the sort of Windows laptops that are not managed in the traditional way except they can still work with local applications lock down, is that a thin client laptop or is that just a regular laptop with a lockdown or is there even a differentiation between those?  Silence.  All right, well –

Jack: I mean from my standpoint, I don’t know, I mean the laptop, the laptop thing is like a niche in a niche to me so, yeah, there’s a use for everything you just described but I don’t know how large it is.

Brian: Well, and I guess maybe like – I mean, Gabe, you had this Chrome book awhile ago which you hated.  But you didn’t hate it because it’s poor architecture, you just felt that Chrome wasn’t a good, like Chrome browser itself didn’t do enough for you like couldn’t handle –

Gabe: Well hang on, so I use the Chrome browser exclusively so I love Chrome browser.  I think that for $500.00, for what I paid for that thing, it just didn’t do enough.  Like I feel like running your entire experience out of essentially a browser is not there yet.  Right, I still rely on some apps that are local that I don’t want to have to switch to a tab to get to and that kind of a thing.  I don’t want to have a limited number of windows or screens that I can have open and, frankly, it made my life harder as a daily driver so the fact that you can get an HTML five receiver or air com client, that kind of a thing, that doesn’t change anything because that is such a limited Windows experience for me as far as there’s no audio, there’s no USB and it’s not – I mean it’s fine, like it’s cool that we can do that but the experience isn’t that great to begin with.

So all of those things just added up to, I paid $500.00 for something that doesn’t work anywhere near the way I need something to work.

Brian: Well and that’s kind of cheating, if all we’re going to do is run an HTML5 –

Gabe: Exactly, so I might as well have an –

Brian: Right, or –

Gabe: if I’m going to spend $500.00.

Brian: Yeah, or have like a Windows embedded or thin pro, thin clients that you can then have like the device native client and get USB supports and all that sort of stuff.

Gabe: Yeah, exactly, so Chrome book is fine, like if your life exists in the Chrome browser and that is all, knock yourself out.  But it’s a lot of money and so – my iPad is $500.00 and it does a hell of a lot more than that Chrome book does.  

Brian: Your iPad has native applications.

Gabe: Native applications.  Well the Chrome book does too, they’re native that they run in Chrome.

Brian: Oh, Chrome extension, yeah.

Gabe: But the iPad actually has – yeah, the iPad, it just did more for the same price.  So I think that it’s just – I think it’s a mix, right, I think the price is not low enough and the interface, the experience is not advanced enough yet.

Brian: What’s the – so it’s interesting with the iPad, so I mean I guess the iPad itself is for the ultimate – see, again, this is – and again, maybe this is just some antics like who cares, but like – ‘cause I would consider an iPad to be sort of like a thin client but I consider the iPad to be a thin client in the same way that I consider my laptop to be a thin client because even though stuff is installed and runs on it I’m not managing the deice, per se, and so I mean I feel like if I can give my – I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe this is all semantics and maybe this all just forces us to finally get to the point where we’re not managing devices anymore and then let the users use whatever they want, you can give them something, I don’t know.

Jack: Well and also, do you think it’s just guys like us that appreciate the rich client experience or – that didn’t quite come out right.  Or do you think it’s everybody?

Brian: I would imagine it’s everyone, isn’t it?  I don’t know, like if you give –

Gabe: There’s a lot of people that will say users don’t know what they want and I disagree with those people, by the way.  But there’s a lot of people that I think incorrectly go, oh, they don’t know and just give them the crappiest thing out there because – it is the bare minimum for what they need to do their job but the fact of the matter is, these people have computers at home and more and more people in the workforce are becoming technical and gadget geeks and have something new’ish at home that if that works better than their computer at work, they’re going to hate their computer at work. 

Brian: So the average user would be very, very disappointed with the Chrome book?

Gabe: I think so.  I think you have to be a nerd and you have to be – in a good way, and I think you have to be willing to put up with a little bit of pain, much like anybody who uses an Android phone.

Brian: Well you know what’s amazing too, is that – it’s crazy because the Chrome book, I’m still not 100% clear why I would chose to buy Chrome book verses an Android book, because I feel like – I’m making up this word, Android book, but like a laptop running Android which I guess they kind of had because there’s Android tablets with detachable keyboards and stuff.

Gabe: ‘Cause no apps would run on it unless it was arm based.

Brian: But I mean for Android, I’ve got the giant marketplace, I’ve got –

Gabe: There’s like that [inaudible] one that looks cool, it’s like $500.00 it has – it’s really fast and it has a ton of storage and it’s like the size of your 11 inch Mac book except it’s an arm based tablet.

Brian: Yeah, and it’s got like an SD card slot on it so I can buy a 64 gig card and synch down my entire drop box library with it and so it can have all the media local so I can actually do stuff while I’m offline, like evernote run on it and write those notes on the plane and then have it sync back.  But it me, that’s still –

Gabe: And a full sized keyboard.

Brian: Yeah, and it uses a pony device too, like a track back.  And so I feel like why go with – yeah, I don’t know why I’m buying Chrome book –

Jack: When that’s the same price.

Brian: Yeah.

Gabe: Well, and Tom, we talked when we were down there about what did we think about just a tablet concept for a thin client and this goes back to that same thing too, like why bother when the stuff already exists in more native kind of friendly formats?

Tom Flynn: Yeah, so right now when we look at tablets for thin clients, it’s a little difficult to see how that would work when you have ones that could run the receiver already as a dedicated thin client device where all it did was – there’s probably some use cases where security exists, but I think tablets and thin clients, one of the interesting things about those is I think it actually broadens the market for thin clients because IT shops have to figure out how they’re going to deliver their Windows applications to those guys who consumerize and bring a tablet in.  That means they have to implement, they either have two choices, they either rewrite all their applications to be to whatever that tablet flavor is which I don’t think is a very high possibility and the second choice is, they implement some kind of remote computing solution and if they do, once you’ve now moved the desktop to a centralized or the cloud, whatever phrase you want to use around it, now thin clients make a lot of sense on desktops as augmentations and they kind of go together in big screens and little screens and all that.

So I don’t see tablets as a bad thing, I see them as a good thing.

Brian: Well, yeah, and I guess – but you see them as a good thing because you’re not going to try to make one, I mean my point is that you see them as a good thing because people have them and are bringing them in so they work great so let’s figure out for organizations how to – let’s figure out how to deal with that instead of having IT deploy those tablets?

Tom Flynn: Yeah, and personally I don’t feel that it’s that big of a competition thing either.  I still feel like tablet remote clients are more party tricks than anything.  Realize that you can use them, you can set your iPhone next to your iPad and use it as a track pad with your Bluetooth keyboard but when it all boils down to it the experience isn’t that great so if the users want to have tablets that’s fine, but if you want to use Windows, we’re going to stick a thin client at your desk, I get that.

Brian: So and it’s funny, too, by the way, like I love all the people who have been saying, oh, HP can do tablets because look at the – what is it called?

Jack: HP tablet hardware.

Brian: And they’re like, oh my gosh, that tablet flew off the shelves at $99.00, like why did HP not just make them $99.00 in the beginning?  And I’m thinking, I don’t know, ‘cause it costs $600.00.

Gabe: Yeah, so, Tom, you have one of those and I didn’t get to see it but you still like yours, right?

Tom Flynn: Oh, I love mine, I do.  I like my touch pad a lot, I think it has the best email client I’ve ever used and I use it as kind of a remote access device for my, for work and I do the local mail.

Brian: If there’s a bug can you just like walk down to the thin pad guy or whatever it is and ask him to fix it for you? Because otherwise there’s not support, right?  You just march it down the hallway and say, dude, fix this?

Tom Flynn: Those guys aren’t located in Houston but HP still supports the touch pad, so I don’t think a customer has to say, oh my god, the sky is falling because it’s not –

Brian: What’s going to Web O?  I know this is, like, Tom, not your area at all, but that was – HP bought that OS from Palm right, so the Web OS that touchpad runs, is that – does that still exist in HP for other plans or does that –

Tom Flynn: So I can’t comment on what HP’s plans are but I can tell you what Meg Whitman announced is that we were open sourcing Web OS and that they announced and entire plan of how they were going to incrementally release all the components for Web OS to eventually have a complete Web OS community supported solution.

Brian: So we have another OS to throw in the fray which I guess is, what’s going to happen is there’s going to be like one awesome device for Web OS and then there’s going to be some percentage of users who freakin’ love it and they’re going to buy it for their parents and then we’re going to bring it into the office and we’re going to have to use it which again, it has to make us, as IT professionals figure out how to not manage the device in the OS and to just let it, I don’t know, because there’s like 5 OS with support on tablets now so there’s zero chance that we can actually manage those things on our own.

Tom Flynn: I can’t – yeah, I guess there’s a topic for consumerized IT dot com, this is what’s coming next, get ready for it.

Brian: All right, Jack, take that down.  So by the way, how about the Chrome book, where were we talking about the Chrome box, was that with you, Tom, when we were down there, or later on, like there’s – did you guys tell me this from CES that there’s people who are making like desktop, it’s like a Chrome book but it’s a desktop computer so it looks like a little Mac mini, like from Samsung or whatever and a plug in keyboard, mouse, monitor and it runs that Chrome OS but it’s like a desktop that runs Chrome.  So I was kind of wondering if maybe this would be a little bit more convenience because your desktop device, like kind of by definition you are always internet connected.

But I still never used a Chrome book, so I don’t know, Gabe, do you think that’s got potential or do you think that’s –

Gabe: Again, I don’t think it was the form factor that got me when it was all said and done. I mean if it’s cheap enough, maybe.  And again, specialized situations I can see it being all right.  If you’re in an organization that all of the applications that somebody uses are delivered by a browser, not bad, right? But if you start bringing Windows apps and stuff into the mix, I don’t know why you just wouldn’t put a thin client or a Windows box at their desk instead.

Brian: What is – do they want to make Android thin clients?  I know I wrote about this a little while ago and as we talk about like IOS becoming a cool thin client, like in the context of, oh, you can have your own applications and your own data and that kind of stuff, like for tablet for example.  So we’re not going to see thin client tablets probably from thin client makers because they can’t beat the iPad and the iPad already has all the clients people need and they already love it so just let it go.  But whenever people talk about IOS then they always talk about Android so is there – so we think about Android tablet, again, but the Android makers are making those already but I wonder, is there a potential for an Android desktop thin clients that people could use and that way could run their Android marketplace apps and they could do like local things with Android applications but it would also have a really great HDX client and PC clients and everything.  What do you guys think, Android thin client?

Gabe: Well if you look at like all the TVs and stuff, you can run Android apps and we’re still a few steps away from, it seems, I didn’t find any like really cool Android set top boxes that do exactly everything that we would want that device to do at CDS or anything but can they – you could pair like a Bluetooth keyboard mouse with those things, right?

Brian: Some of them, yeah.

Gabe: Yeah, I didn’t think about that, like so if they have Android TVs, but I have to buy a whole new TV to get it, or just a set top box but do they make Android set top boxes?

Brian: Yeah.

Gabe: Oh, wow, so that is an Android thin client essentially, it’s a set top box.  Which is kind of – I mean really you can –

Jack: Isn’t that Google TV?

Brian: I don’t think that runs like regular Android, like I don’t think you can just go get apps for that, does anyone know?

Jack: That may be true, I just thought that Google TV is Android based and that means there’s an Android set top box.

Brian: Oh, I see, yeah, I wonder if that’s the same, I wonder if it’s Android based just like Apple TV is IOS based.  It might [inaudible] but it’s not really – although IOS, I mean that’s another thing.  Gabe, I know you wrote that article a little while about, if Apple were to enable Apple TV to run regular IOS apps, now you’re got a $99.00 thin client that can, I mean so the same process as an iPad, right.

Gabe: Yeah, and I think – Justin, you’re muted I think, but didn’t you see something and get it where somebody jail broke one and actually turned it into – and installed a Citrix receiver on it?

Justin: Yes, actually I do believe I did see that.

Gabe: See if you can find that again.

Justin: Yeah, I mean I’ve seen a lot of like Linux-based TV boxes or like Lenox too but they have app support, so I mean there’s all kinds of thin clients out there.

Brian: And I know for Apple the problem is not just like as simple for them flipping a switch and enabling regular IOS on this thing because now you have, you don’t have the mutli touch interface, you’ve got resolution of god knows what and one of the beautiful things about IOS in the past is that the developer can write an app for IOS for iPad or iPhone and then know exactly what the device is and the form facts and delivery and font sizes and all that kind of stuff.  If it’s going out of the HTI to some screen between – from 1,000 to potentially 1900 by 1080 and you don’t know how big the screen is and if they have a pointing device or not and if they have a keyboard or not, like I think there’s a reason that these things don’t do that today and that might be very difficult.  But maybe – and they can make some workarounds but then it would lose the smoothness, which is the 30 years of workarounds.

All right, so that’s cool, I guess we’ll put that to bed.  What do you think on this – any of this kind of stuff, I mean I know that a lot of these thin client devices are based on arm processors and I’m imagining, I don’t know, Tom, if you can shed some light on this, I know that arm processors historically have been lower power than Intel but there’s nothing inherent in the design that makes them lower power it’s just more because they just happen to, I don’t know, that’s just what they use.  Hang on a second. And so anyway, they – for these Arm processors, now the Intel's make lower power processers and Arm is kind of going higher end.  Like is there any kind of fundamental difference when we’re looking at thin clients of the future and like whether they use Arm verses Intel processors? Is that a cost savings thing or is there some real fundaments in the Arm that can be different than Intel?

Tom Flynn: Well I think kind of from a legacy point of view looking at it, it’s where they came from, right, Arms were always power consumption first was the primary concern, performance was second.  And Intel was always performance first, power consumption second.  Kind of as a legacy, as things merge as you’re seeing with Intel’s push downward in the power envelope with all their announcements and then Arm moving up with a 15 and other designs and there’s a lot of – there’s huge eco system out there around Arm so fundamentally there’s probably going to be some point of convergence.  I mean Arm today is a 32 bit solution verses typically a 64 bit solution in the X86 space whether it’s from Intel or AMD, but if you look at what the echo system’s out there doing and it could be qual com, it could be in video, I mean their quad cores, the innovative graphic cores, all the things they’re doing are pretty powerful solutions so I think it’s going to be real interesting to see which way the market goes.

I’d say from a product development point of view, the eco system around X86 is probably a little more developed for the kind of thin client use case then say the Arm one is so from a vendor point of view, you have to do more work on helping develop the eco system in the Arm area.

Brian: So another question we have from the audience which is, Punita’s asking about sort of an evolution past zero so what do we think?  We had thin clients with sort of like thin pro OS or something like that and now we’ve evolved to zero clients. What’s the next step look like in that evaluation? Go ahead.

Tom Flynn: So kind of our view around a zero, the market kind of took early on that zero meant a piece of hardware, right, we didn’t necessarily share that as a sole definition. Zero really means, from an IT point of view, I don’t ever have to touch it, I don’t ever have to do anything with it, so – and it just updates itself and takes care of itself so I think over time the goal is, these are just self managed devices, right, they update themselves when they have to to work with your environment, they’re aware of where they’re at, that’s kind of the evolution.  So really the end goal is to take all the administrative work out of it, and make it absolutely simple and it does the function so essentially it’s a programmable toaster is kind of what you’d want to really end up with that kept itself up to date.

Brian: Wasn’t that what we were sold about thin clients about 20 years ago?

Tom Flynn: So I think 20 years ago there was, how many protocols were available on a thin client?

Brian: Two.  Well, 3070, there’s three.

Tom Flynn: So and they did their job pretty well for where their technology was capable of doing but I think what’s changed is the interface is a lot richer, and you’re doing – there’s a plethora of innovation out there and all the different protocols and all the different vendors, when you see all the investment that Microsoft, VM Wear, Citrix is making and having a really rich experience, right, and then what’s going to happen as everybody adopts the HTML 5 technologies into their solutions over time and this whole convergence is probably going to happen, it might be interesting.

Brian: It’s interesting because you can almost think about more classic thin clients that had local OS’s and local configuration and they could even do local caching and local browsing and extensions and that kind of stuff, that is like the Android, if you think about Android and think about IOS it is sort of like that so you can almost see the difference with Android and IOS is there’s probably more users who are going out and finding their own applications and doing their configurations and accepting the updates and that kind of stuff but you can sort of see that it’s, I guess these are all a little bit maybe easier to manage than sort of traditional PCs but fundamentally it’s about, is there anything that’s sort of saved their cache there when the user, like user data when they turn it off because maybe that’s the difference, I don’t know.

Like thin client, IOS, Android, they can have – the users can install stuff on it and they can save things that when it’s powered off verses zero client when it’s hardware zero or download protocol zero is kind of – reserves the right to be flash from scratch at any moment.

Tom Flynn: That’s – and I think that’s the key, I think it’s the security from kind of an enterprise or corporate IT kind of view is that thin clients afford a high degree of assurance that nothing’s left resident on that device if it gets taken, right.  And you lose your – I don’t know how many iPads are lost in the airport but I’m sure there’s probably quite a few.  And you leave something locally running on there and I’d hate to be the security guy to have to figure out what to do with that.

Gabe: Sure.  Not without mobile device management, Jack.

Brian: Hey, Jack, how’s that coming along?  For consumerized IT you’re doing a smack down on mobile device management vendors.  I know the original goal for end of January which is today, so we’ll be seeing that later this afternoon, or?

Jack: Oh, yes.  Your original goal was for the end of January.  My original goal was like BriForum in London, that’s in May.  So I’ve spoken to maybe like eight or ten different mobile device management vendors right now so I have been really getting a good idea of where different solutions fit in the space and what naturally could be considered true BYOD and like I like the multi persona solutions and so now that I know how things are put together I’m going to put out sort of a mobile device vendor of the week or maybe two a week for the next five or six weeks or so.  

Brian: So break it down, like assuming I know nothing about mobile device managements, you talked to all these different vendors and what’s happening in that space right now, approaching trends that like –

Jack: Well say you – going from London with respect to the other, you have the approach of, they’re the old school mobile device management vendors that say, sure, we can do bring your own device and someone brings in their own device and suddenly sometimes if it’s Android the entire operating system is replaced and really the user is just left over with like a small portion that’s quote, their’s unquote and that could theoretically be wiped out or anything at any time.  It all really comes down to, how much do you really trust your IT department and how are the relations?

Brian: It’s funny you say that because when you started that sentence you said, it all comes down to how much you trust your, I thought you were going to say, end users.  But it’s funny that this whole conversation itself is flipped around, like you’re not talking to IT people about how much you trust your end users for what MDM they should use, you’re talking to the end user, like in this context is the end users it’s like, oh my gosh, how much do you trust your IT department how much control do you want to give them over what you’re actually doing.

Jack: Because I think from the IT end, the whole premise of mobile device management and multi persona management is that you trust your users none.  So that’s already a given factor and that’s a whole point of all this so now looking at it, what to look at, the difference between these different vendors is how much they still leave the user and leave untouched, like some solutions, they come in and they really are no heavier than just an application on the device and they don’t do anything with the OS or anything else and if the user loses the device, the IT, they can wipe out the app but the rest of the device, it’s the user’s problem.

Brian: So you talked about this like multi personal managements, what is that?

Jack: That’s, like I do this multi personal management already with my Blackberry using Google Voice because work calls come in they come in the Good Voice and they have a separate phone number but these, for some devices and some approaches this is a completely different operating systems using the hyper visor so it’s like a complete phone number.  It’s like your work phone and your personal phone together on one device and how those are integrated is that there’s a spectrum that’s different providers are in different places as far as how much one intrudes into the other, can you hide the work stuff completely or not? 

Brian: So I guess if you’re looking at which one’s best it depends on who you’re talking to, so best from the user perspective verses best from the IT department perspective are probably two different things?

Jack: Yeah, yeah, and also it’s a matter of personal preference as well.

Brian: So, okay, you talked to like 8 or 10 venders so far.  Let me put you on the spot, who’s your favorite?

Jack: Well I’ll tell you who aren’t my favorites. Anyone –

Brian: Wow, this isn’t a job interview.  It’s funnier though because people get pissed at us more.  He’s like, I’m not going to tell you who I love but here’s my shit list, go.

Jack: I mean, well anything that doesn’t do, I’m going to say both the major platform because that’s what we’re really talking about.  Anything that doesn’t do both of those platforms is a big problem.

Brian: Android and IOS.

Jack: Right, right. And now the people that are doing just the Android stuff will argue that, well inherently IOS is more secure and more stable, so put your efforts into Android anyway and user solution that replaces the, replacing the whole operating system and leaves the user with just like a small container.  But really my favorite are solutions that really are – operate just as an app that runs on what, whatever’s on the rest of the phone and the rest of the phone is completely untouched.  There was one, I think it was Mucona that’s like, did do the – it did manage the entire device but the way that they set it up was that like the user has a council and the user can manage the entire device and the council that the IT sees, it’s just those apps and maybe I’ll get in trouble if I said it was the wrong one, I’d have to look at my notes, it’s all the notes.

Brian: Okay, so the first step for you is that you’re going to start just writing like synopsis of all the stuff you saw, so that starts – 

Jack: Good technology on Friday.  I’m going to do it in order that I talked to them.

Brian: Okay, so that seems fair, it’s not on favorites, or –

Jack: Not on favorites.

Gabe: And then you can watch our path link, this is the best one I’ve ever seen.  No, this is the best one I’ve ever seen. And now this one.  Oh, sorry, middle guy. ‘Cause I was on a few of these calls with him and it was just, it was funny because it was so new to us.  Each time we’re like, we talked to somebody and we’d hear something and we’re like, well, shit, we need to go back and ask that questions to the last two people we talked to because it’s just something we hadn’t thought of before, an approach we hadn’t thought of before.  So that’s why – that’s why rather than just coming out with opinions, as soon as we finish these things I think it makes more sense to get the big picture and then –

Brian: Get the big picture, yeah.

Gabe: Because now we know what the hell we’re talking about.  Or Jack does, I don’t.

Jack: Right, that’s why I didn’t write about any of these vendors specifically two months ago.

Brian: So you got like a nice little bullshit filter and everything, you can hear when you’re being sold a line of crap when you’re talking to you?

Jack: Pretty much.

Brian: Speaking of crap, you went to [inaudible], and Justin, you were there too.

Gabe: Hey, there’s a question that just popped up in the chat room before we go to the MDMs.  Jack, did any of those MDM products allow you to remote control or view the device from a PC or a Mac?

Jack: Wow, that would be – 

Gabe: Like shadowing, remote help, that kind of thing.

Jack: That would be cool, but not that I – I don’t remember that coming up at all so I’m guessing no.

Gabe: Okay, MDM vendors, that would be cool.

Brian: My gosh, yeah, I don’t even know how – not my job to figure out how to do that.  But I’m not – I went to CS last year sort of begrudgingly and one of the great advantage so of Jack joining us here is we can send him to all the shit conferences that we don’t want to attend.  And CES has become sort of a shit conference in my mind, because it’s like 140,000 people and it just never ends. I don’t know.  So last year at CES the biggest thing I saw is Motorola Atrix and the new Nirvana phone and that was all the news and Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 and everything.  And so you were there a couple days, you talked to different people.  Give me in one minute, CES 2012, from the perspective of a desktop management professional, IT professional, what do I care, if anything, about CES?

Jack: Well the week before CES we talked a lot about what Windows 8 is going to look like and how Metro is going to work with a traditional desktop.  We’re trying to figure out how we can mentally fill out the big, giant matrix of platforms and form factors and which user experiences to feature and we got no more answers about that there.  So that was a disappointment.  Parts of the Microsoft were actually pretty awkward like when the head of the consumer electronics association was like presenting Steve Ballmer with like a commemorative plaque like, oh, we loved you, come back again sometime.

Brian: I know it, and Microsoft’s like, see you.  I think I tweeted like, this is awkward.

Jack: It’s like a one sided breakup, it’s like, well if you ever change your mind, I’m still here.  It’s like, okay, I probably won’t be, but – hey, I might be drunk, you never know.  So there was nothing really there.  We did see lots of the cool fuit devices and that’s –

Brian: You have the Fuit, F-U-I-T shirt made, right, that you can wear around?

Jack: Yeah, yeah, and I went around talking to a lot of these venders and explaining what F-U-I-T was and at first I was sort of hesitant to go up and say, hey, people can use your products to say, F-U-I-T, but most of them, they got what we meant by that and so there was a list of interesting things like that that I found.

Brian: What’s your favorite of the F-U-I-T products you found?

Jack: There –

Brian: There’s nothing that jumps into your mind immediately? Justin, anything?

Justin: I enjoyed the product for connecting multiple devices for displays, I can’t remember the name.

Jack: Oh, the worm hole things, you plug two laptops together and you can drag one file to another and it’s just like plug and play with like a USB.

Justin: You could like control a Mac with a PC and a PC with a Mac to like go back and forth.

Jack: As long as they’re right next to each other.

Gabe: So I saw that and lots of people asked what I thought about that.

Jack: I actually liked it, though.

Gabe: But what the hell would you use it for?

Jack: I don’t know, I feel like there’s actually lots of times I want to transfer stuff at home between my Mac and PC and if I don’t want to bother going through drop box, like waiting for it upload and then download.

Gabe: Well you have a network.

Brian: But it’s like if your mom and your dad, like they’re not –

Gabe: One of them has a Mac and one of them has a PC, you get them to sit down next to each other, yeah.

Brian: I can see that, it’s like – you don’t need the network and internal file sharing, turn off your firewalls.

Jack: I feel like it’s a product that if it came out 10 years ago.


Brian: Parallel port to parallel ports, yeah.

Jack: Little bit slower.

Gabe: I still have a bright yellow lap link cable.

Brian: And it was called a lap link cable.  A parallel port cable that was on both ends or whatever it was called – it was nothing, it was just –

Gabe: Jack was 9.

Brian: When lap link came out.  Speaking of which –

Gabe: When it went away.

Jack: You know what though, to be fair, we saw a decent number of things that could be used as thin clients.

Gabe: Well, yeah, half the stuff there could be used as thin clients.

Jack: But it’s kind of interesting, I don’t feel like last year even nearly as many devices, I’m going to say maybe that’s because of Android, because most of them are Android based.

Brian: So basically, because now there’s Android on everything.  So to Tom’s point, your toaster now runs Android.  And so –

Jack: But it’s sort of interesting how –


Brian: What do you guys think, so CES, did you have fun there, is it worth going to, are you going next year?

Jack: It’s going to be a tough call.

Gabe: It’s worth it for press because it’ll pay.

Jack: I mean it was – hey, it was a couple days at a show which is always fun, I guess but – I could have gotten a lot more content if I had like stayed at home writing.

Gabe: Still signing up to go to CES so you can get on the press release email lists but then staying home and writing about the stuff –

Brian: Which by the way, my first time to CES was in 2005 and the only time – I registered with a span account this time when I went last year, so that’s 2005 so that’s like 7 years ago and I’m still to this day getting boat loads of emails about iPod cases and this, new speakers and come out.

Gabe: I’m going to say Mac World is worse.

Brian: Oh, you guys were at Mac World too.

Gabe: Yeah.

Brian: What happened there, anything?

Gabe: Mac World, so the – so the first thing, yesterday I put out an article about Niveo and I don’t know if we want to get into a whole cloud desktop discussion right now.

Brian: I think we want to save that for next week, ‘cause you’re- and you’re right, you’ve got another article like that coming out Thursday this week about some stuff you saw at Mac World.

Gabe: Yeah, yeah, that’s about stuff that manages Macs.

Brian: Let’s just table that since we’re over our hour now, and I need to go do other work.  So, I don’t know, any final thoughts, anything else on your mind, guys, anything, Tom?

Gabe: Do we have a reason to go to CEBIT now?

Brian: You can.

Gabe: I thought we would go together some day.

Brian: Well, yeah.

Gabe: Not this year because it’s in like March, it’s a month away.

Brian: Sebit’s cool, it’s just a really far ways away, and not with my traveling hatred.

Gabe: It’s in like Hannover or something, isn’t it?

Brian: Yeah, but it is cool that they take – like there’s more people who attend Sebit than there are hotel rooms in the 100 mile radius so the entire town clears out and you stay in people’s houses.  So like they arrange it through the Sebit conference thing so if you have a house you tell them how many bedrooms you have available and register through the site and they give you an address and literally like the father and all the children leave for like a week and then the mother, but then they get paid too.  So there’s standards, like you have to provide breakfast, you have to provide shower, all this kind of stuff.  And so when I went there I was in like some teenage girls bedroom and there’s like pictures of David Hasslehoff on the wall or whatever.

And there’s like three strangers in the house and she makes us breakfast and everything and it costs like 100 Euros a night or whatever and large families, they can make a couple thousand Euros of that week to provide host for some people to stay at Sebit.  And there’s buses that do it so like the buses will drop off in every neighborhood and they tell you take bus 18 and get off at stop 6 and the house is 200 meters that way.  So it’s cool for that aspect but it’s 14 hours away.  So, all right, well that’s cool.  So let’s table all this, we’ll pick up next week.  I think we’re going to meet later so if there’s any of you who’s listening from Europe right now who’s listening live, speak now because I think this is too early for us west coasters.

So I’m thinking if we just push the show back a few hours and do it when I don’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. so notwithstanding the delay, wait for it, oh, I don’t see anyway, so I’m going to call this thing.  We’ll do two hours later next week so we’ll see you 169 hours from now.  Tom Flynn, CTO of HP’s, you told me this already, thin client.

Tom Flynn: Thin client group, that’s good.

Brian: Hey, thank you so much for dialing in for this, appreciate it.

Tom Flynn: Hey, well thanks for having me, I appreciate it, I enjoyed the conversation.

Brian: And, cool, Gave, as always, thank you, Jack, thanks.

Gabe: Yeah.

Brian: Justin is extremely sick right now, thank you for coming in today with your sickness and now you can go home.  So everyone, thank you so much for listening, we’ll see you 169 hours from now.


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