Desktop virtualization in action

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Hosted Web-Based Pseudo-Desktop Systems

Web-based pseudo-desktops are the newest entry into the desktop virtualization world. You can access your desktop from anywhere with a web browser. These web-based desktops are best described as pseudo-desktop systems because they aren't operating systems at all"they are Web 2.0 applications that mimic the look and feel of a desktop operating system. Being purely web-based, they are very fast and quite enjoyable to use.

Unless you've seen one of these, the concept may seem a little odd at first, but most work quite well and offer an impressive collection of applications. The following three figures are the best examples we've seen of this technology. Figure 10-1 is a screenshot of the icloud CloudOS from Xcerion. The service is still in beta and you have to sign up as a developer if you want to use it. The website is at

Figure 10-1

My Cloud OS Desktop.

The icloud Cloud OS Desktop includes, as you can see, a live calendar, clock, international time information, and several applications, including an application builder. Windows and Linux users alike will enjoy using this web-based system.

The next system we have used is's Online Desktop. This offering is interesting because of the level of detail in mimicking a standard Windows or Linux (KDE) desktop experience. Figure 10-2 shows you the standard StartForce Online Desktop.

Figure 10-2

The StartForce Online Desktop.

StartForce Online Desktop feels comfortable at any resolution and has several familiar applications, such as a web browser, an audio player, and an instant messenger. It has the familiar naming and behavior expected from a regular desktop computer. Handy icons on the desktop enable users to provide feedback, to request a new feature in StartForce, or to participate in one of the many forums that have sprouted up in response to this service.

The final online desktop system reviewed here is AjaxWindows. AjaxWindows has more in the way of useful applications than any of the other systems we have seen, but it seems less stable to me. We are hopeful that the maintainers will continue to upgrade this service and make it as stable and fast as StartForce. Figure 10-3 shows you my AjaxWindows Desktop.

Figure 10-3

The AjaxWindows Desktop with standard icons and applications.

Check out AjaxWindows Desktop at

Two other web-based desktop systems we have looked at briefly deserve some mention here: Ghost (Global Hosted Operating System) at and the Ulteo Online Desktop at Both of these services receive good reviews and awards, and they are definitely worth a look.

Web-based desktop systems are a viable option for those of you looking to totally virtualize your desktop environment and user experience. These services offer a generous amount of storage space and unlimited access at no charge. In the future, the services will most likely offer a premium support option, more storage space, and more options for those willing to pay a small fee. ...

Read the full chapter for a discussion of localized desktop virtualization.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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