Wyse has introduced a thin-client desktop device designed for virtualised desktops - allowing administrators to store users' entire desktops, applications and all as virtual machines on a server.

The Wyse Thin OS - VDI Edition is the first system designed to work with VMware's popular virtualisation technology under VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) programme, launched in April.

VMware's server virtualisation technology, designed to allow multiple servers to run on a single physical machine, has begun to take off in a big way, and VDI is one of the company's efforts to push its software into new areas.

The new device has features such as "power on to work," meaning connection to the server-based desktop is automatic, and is integrated with several connection broker technologies, Wyse said. The set-up uses Wyse's S Class thin client hardware.

The system has some significant limitations at the moment, such as lacking multimedia and support for USB peripherals, but Wyse said it's planning to add those features at a later date.

Such details may not matter for large companies who want easy manageability for large numbers of standardised desktops, such as call centres or retail chains.

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Wyse said one large US retailer has already rolled out more than 70,000 of its thin clients, saving $4.7 million on energy costs alone. Wyse says the S Class uses 10 percent the energy of a standard Energy Star PC, or about the same amount of power as a Christmas tree light.

The current unit is the size of a book, and Wyse said it's planning to roll out a smaller version the size of a pack of cards at November's VMware World in Los Angeles.

VDI-compatible products such as the new Wyse thin client are designed to work well with VMware's software as well as virtual desktop products from other VDI members. Those include Check Point, Fujitsu-Siemens, Hitachi, HP, IBM, NEC, Softricity, Sun and Zeus Technology, as well as blade manufacturers such as ClearCube.

The virtualised desktop is a relatively new idea, but its promoters, and analyst firms such as IDC, say putting user software and data into the data centre means better security and manageability - companies no longer need to worry about laptop theft, for instance.

Such concerns have become more pressing in recent months as regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley come into effect.

The catch to VDI is that it's all based on VMware's software. While that may not be a problem in the short term, since VMware dominates the x86 virtualisation market, VMware is far from an industry standard; it competes with efforts like IBM's Virtualised Hosted Client Infrastructure as well as offerings from the likes of Microsoft, SWsoft and XenSource.