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Wyse PocketCloud is "Freakin' Amazing"

Innovative Remote Desktop Program Is Way Better than its Hype

So often technology products don't live up to their hype, but it is considerably rarer where it is the other way around.  You know the all-to-familiar scenario of the former.  You read about a new smartphone app, say.  It sounds amazing; you have to have it; you wonder how you have lived without it.  Then, you look it up on the Apple App Store or Android Market and the misgivings start.  Maybe the summary text is unclear or the user ratings aren't great.  But you are smitten enough to look past that and install it anyway, especially if it is free.  Not everybody is a great writer and sometimes users are just bitchy, right?  Then, you fire it up and, damn, damn, damn - it crashes, it's slow, the UI is crap, or the press was pure prevarication!  If you are mad enough, maybe you add to the bad reviews, but in any case, you uninstall it with a sigh or a growl and move on.  We've all been there.

But, how often does a lame or confusing app announcement belie a crisp, compelling summary, positive reviews a-plenty, and a stunning user experience?  Maybe often, but who knows?  How often do any of us find a reason to persevere past a weak introduction?  Not frequently, right?

Well, if you even saw the news yesterday about something called Wyse PocketCloud and you actually read the press release or any of the published re-writes, you know the following.  It is being now made available on Android tablets after having been supported for a while on other mobile devices, it has been downloaded a lot, a customer you probably haven't heard of thinks it's swell, there is a free version and a $15 version, and, if you didn't blink and miss it, you saw the one, sleepy 26-word sentence saying what it does.

"PocketCloud provides the ability to securely run apps, access files, pictures and videos and much more on a Windows or Mac desktops from an Android device."

A bit further in, this sentence is followed up with a sizable number of technical bullets, most of which would either be meaningless to consumers, e.g. "Secure tunneling for VNC", or sell the product very short.

All of this is a real shame, because Wyse PocketCloud freaking ROCKS!  There are other programs out there that do more or less the same things it does, but not nearly as well and/or not for free.

If you are familiar with GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, or Windows' remote desktop access feature, they you already know what it does.  It lets you connect to your PC, Mac, or virtual desktop from your iPhone/Pad or Android smartphone or tablet and do stuff there as if you were on the system itself.  This means, for instance, you can open a Word document or Excel spreadsheet and edit it, access your desktop email client and read and send mail, etc., either over a Wi-Fi or mobile broadband connection.  It is not for transferring files between the PC and the phone/tablet; it turns the latter into a remote control and viewer for the former.

There are several different versions of PocketCloud.  On Android, there is the free version and the "Pro" version which costs $14.99.  The free version carries advertisements that are not terribly intrusive, while the Pro version is ad-free.   Other differences include that the free version allows a single connection, forum-only support and basic, 128-bit encryption while the Pro allows multiple connections, technical support reps, and NLS/TLAS encryption.  In addition, the Pro version provides "Pinch to Zoom", audio streaming, VMware View support, auto-fit and extended resolution screen support, and secure firewall tunneling.

On the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, the version scheme is different from that for Android.  To begin with, there is no free version.  There is a Pro version that also costs $14.99 and is fairly similar to the Android Pro version with some additional, Apple-specific features, like VGA video out and Retina Diplay support.  There is also a "Premium" version for the iPhone/Pod/Pad that adds 3G video streaming, file browsing, bookmark sync, and desktop search, all features not available on Android at this time.  Notably, the Apple Premium version is available on a subscription bases for $1/month.

PocketCloud duplicates the PC's screen display on the remote device, which on the small screen of an iPhone is of course tiny.  But the program enables smooth and responsive magnification and panning of the desktop image, even over a 3G connection.  The same goes for things like moving windows and scrolling documents.

It does these things quite a bit better than most other remote access programs owing to technology unique to Wyse, developed in support of the company's well-regarded thin client hardware and software technology.  That enterprise heritage also shows in other ways in PocketCloud as in how it works cleanly and securely in relation enterprise network infrastructure, encryption, and desktop virtualization software, like VMware.

But, there are other innovative features in PocketCloud that, like the slick screen stuff, should be equally impressive to both business users and consumers.

All versions provide an optional, free software component for the PC or Mac that, among other things, enables host-side browsing with the iPhone/Pad GUI, support for Flash and Java, and ActiveX and add-on support.

The process of connecting the mobile device with the computer is very simple.  For connecting to a Windows PC, PocketCloud provides an auto-discovery feature that automatically detects devices sharing a local area network and enables their connection.  Furthermore, the Android takes advantage of the user's Google credential to simplify and automate connecting devices.

Another good feature is PocketCloud's keyboard handling.  For basic typing, it uses the native soft keyboard on the mobile device, but for special keys the software automatically accommodates the differences between PC and Mac keyboards, especially those related to function keys and their assigned purposes.

One of the coolest features, by far, though, is the PocketCloud Touch Pointer, which solves two different problems.

As anyone who has ever used a web browser on a smart phone knows, when a GUI designed for a 15-20 inch screen is shrunk down to the size of the average phone display, one's finger tips are way larger than the tiny buttons, links, menu selections and the like, and there is no visible cursor as there would be on the PC.  These things make it very difficult to accurately navigate, point and click, especially on things that are tightly spaced, like menu choices or the contents, document text, and spreadsheet cells.  To solve this problem, the Touch Pointer provides a visible cursor that is offset from the position of the user's fingertip, enabling easy precise selection.

Another problem is one peculiar to interacting with a screen display like a PC desktop on a touch screen device, like a smartphone or tablet.  The PC display assumes that the user has a mouse with two buttons and a scroll wheel.  The touch screen only naturally provides for moving the point of focus and for a single- and double-clicking of a one button.  There is not in-built ability to right-click as for context menus and no equivalent for the scroll wheel.

The PocketCloud Touch Pointer solves this problem by adding visible touch points surrounding the fingertip location, as well as ones for toggling screen zoom and the display of the keyboard and the special keys.

I have tried to use several other remote desktop access apps on my Android smartphone and found them all to suffer from some combination of several different drawbacks.  They cost a lot, they are hard to install and configure, they are clumsy to use, or they are lacking essential functions.

With Wyse PocketCloud I had none of these problems.  The free version does everything I need it to do.  I was able to download, install and configure it in four minutes.  And, the Touch Pointer is positively addictive.  I only wish I could use it with many other apps on my phone, like web browsing, map navigation and picture manipulation.  I would pay money for that alone.

My experience with this app is by no means unique.  It gets four and a half stars in the Android market from over a thousand reviews.  Virtually all the negative reviews are from cases where people had specific problems with certain phones, network issues or "forced close" problems, all of which are issues that I have seen with virtually every app I have looked at in the Android Market.  On the other hand, the positive reviews were mostly four and five-star raves, as this representative sampling shows.

"This has got to be the absolute best program of its kind...works amazing!  Love it and will definitely buy the full version on payday!"

"Mouse control overlay is the best option one can think of."

"Awesome, awesome, awesome.  By far the best remote desktop program for any platform.  A must-have app."

"Freakin' amazing...stupidly simple to install...even for a caveman like me."

"I've been waiting for something like this for a while now.  It works *way* better than I thought it would."

"Amazing piece of software.  Flawless."

"Cursor tool rocks!"

There are few, if any Android app on which I have seen such a profusion of superlatives lavished so, let alone such a basic utility as a remote desktop program.  It just goes to show what can happen when something is well thought out, well planned, and so much better than the alternatives.

I can only hope that Wyse is reading the user reviews and rethinking their marketing strategy going forward.  I haven't really looked at Wyse since back in the days when they made decent PCs for a decent price.  But, this little piece of software made me take a fresh look at what they are doing now and what I found was a mind-boggling breadth and depth of hardware technology, much of it portending a potentially strong leadership position as cloud computing becomes the norm.  There is not another company quite like them.  It would be great to see such a venerable company hot in the mix again.

More Stories By Tim Negris

Tim Negris is SVP, Marketing & Sales at Yottamine Analytics, a pioneering Big Data machine learning software company. He occasionally authors software industry news analysis and insights on Ulitzer.com, is a 25-year technology industry veteran with expertise in software development, database, networking, social media, cloud computing, mobile apps, analytics, and other enabling technologies.

He is recognized for ability to rapidly translate complex technical information and concepts into compelling, actionable knowledge. He is also widely credited with coining the term and co-developing the concept of the “Thin Client” computing model while working for Larry Ellison in the early days of Oracle.

Tim has also held a variety of executive and consulting roles in a numerous start-ups, and several established companies, including Sybase, Oracle, HP, Dell, and IBM. He is a frequent contributor to a number of publications and sites, focusing on technologies and their applications, and has written a number of advanced software applications for social media, video streaming, and music education.

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