January 24, 2013, 4:19 PM — Dell is planning to release by mid-year a computer that's all of 3.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. It's not much bigger in girth than a USB stick, and is similar in design.
This Wi-Fi enabled device is designed to be plugged into something, most likely a monitor or TV. It has two USB ports for a keyboard and a mouse and, alternatively, Bluetooth capability. It displays at 1080p and can support touch screens.
The device will be powered by an ARM system-on-a-chip manufactured by an undisclosed vendor.
The device doesn't yet have a real name -- Dell is calling it "Project Ophelia."
Ophelia isn't trying to be Chromebook-like (less keyboard and screen) and do most of its work in the cloud. It's far from a fat client PC, but it can run applications natively as well from the cloud. The application model is more like a tablet.
The device will cost less than $100.
"It's a radical rethinking of how best to support end user computing," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT. It's not simply a thin client device, he says - "it's steps beyond that."
King said Dell may have a problem marketing the device and in educating potential users about its role.
The "Project Ophelia" product was developed by Dell's Wyse unit, which is long known for making thin clients.
This device, though, -- perhaps reflecting the influence of Dell -- is not a corporate thin client. It's clearly designed to appeal to consumers, BYOD workers, and creative IT managers.
The device will run Android OS Jelly Bean, have 8GB of memory to support applications, music, video and presentations, and a microSD slot up to 32GB of storage.
The ideal connection is through a Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) enabled interface to a monitor.
The MHL Consortium, whose founders include Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba, says there are more than 200 unique MHL-enabled products available today.
Ophelia can also be powered through a USB port.
The device will be loaded with Dell's PocketCloud, which provides remote desktop access.
Jeff McNaught, executive director of marketing and chief strategy officer for Dell Cloud Client Computing, says "the use cases [for the device] are incredibly broad."
The education market, for instance, has lot of potential uses, he said.
Schools could provide the devices to students instead of tablets or PCs. A student can plug the device into monitors at home and school.
Businesses could use it like they use thin clients today. Deployment of the Ophelia device may be a little easier, with less wires and easy portability.