Amazon has two primary businesses. It is probably best known as a retail giant that sells books and all sorts of other products at http://www.Amazon.com. It has another very large business as a cloud computing provider, a business that serves corporations, government, and individuals alike. (I back up my computers to Amazon S3.) Amazon delivers infrastructure-as-a-service that lets businesses and developers build and host applications in Amazon data centers.
Amazon announced today a new service, called Amazon Workspaces. Amazon will use its cloud to deliver virtual Windows desktops to any Windows or Mac computer, iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android tablet. It will allow anyone to run a Windows (virtual) computer installed in an Amazon data center even though the customer is using a Macintosh, a different Windows computer, or a tablet. Each user gets his or her own 50 gigabyte to 100 gigabyte of disk space and 3.75 or 7.5 gigabytes of memory. The remotely hosted system should be able to run any Windows programs the user cares to install.
All Windows programs will run on Amazon's virtual Windows computers but all screen display, keyboard input, and mouse input will be routed to and from the remote user's PC, Macintosh, or tablet. It will provide an easy method for a non-Windows user to run Windows programs, something that is especially useful for someone who uses a tablet computer, especially when traveling.
The Windows operating system will be on drive C: while the user's data will be stored on Drive D:. Amazon WorkSpaces offers preinstalled applications (including Microsoft Office) or you can bring your own licensed software. All of this is hosted in the cloud using very high-speed Internet connections, allowing the user to send and receive large files to and from other Internet sites at speeds that are much faster than the typical in-home Internet connection. Of course, all data is automatically backed up and saved in Amazon's multiple data centers, providing very high reliability. If the hardware breaks or the system needs any other sort of maintenance or operating system upgrades, Amazon pays.
The price will not be cheap: $35 to $75 per user per month, depending upon the options selected. I doubt if that price will appeal to the average in-home Windows user. After all, cheap Windows computers can be purchased for $400 or $500 so and Amazon's monthly charges could soon add up to that amount. Instead, I see this option as very appealing to a few people:
- Anyone who travels a lot can have a high-speed computer "back home," actually hosted on Amazon.
- Anyone who depends on a tablet computer, such as traveling sales people or service technicians, can have a powerful Windows systems with a lot of disk storage capacity that is easily used via any local wi-fi connection.
- A company that needs to hire a lot of temporary workers and provide them with computers, such as H & R Block that only provides services for about 3 months a year, may find it cheaper to rent computers from Amazon only for the short time needed than to purchase thousands of computers and then leave them idle for nine months a year. Amazon WorkSpaces requires no upfront investment and features pay as you go pricing. With a few clicks, you can provision the number of desktops you require and you pay only for what you use.
- The high-speed connections may be useful to many people, including myself. I send about 150,000 email messages per week to newsletter subscribers. Sending them from an in-home fiber optic Internet connection requires many hours and I have discovered that sending them from a hotel room is unreliable. (I could write a book!) I eventually purchased a Mac Mini and installed in a data center that has very high speed and reliable network backbone connections. Unfortunately, that costs a lot more than $35 a month. Switching to Amazon Workspaces probably will save me money over what I am paying now. Anyone else who has to send and receive a lot of data may find using a virtual PC hosted in a data center with very high-speed connections can be very appealing.
- Amazon has always provided bullet-proof security and the new Amazon Workspaces will continue to be very secure, far more secure than the typical Windows computer installed in a home.
Amazon Workspaces is available today only in a limited preview. It won't be ready for the general public for a couple of months or so. For more information, look at: https://aws.amazon.com/workspaces/.