Dell's "Ophelia" USB Device: The Key to the Multiple-OS Future?

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 17, 2013

Linux users, perhaps more than any other kinds of technoogy users are highly familiar with loading operating systems--sometimes many of them--using pocket-size USB Flash drives. We've covered this phenomenon many times, and sites like (see the logo image shown here) specialize in making it easy to install most any kind of Linux distro via a Flash drive. 

At the recent CES show, Dell didn't generate huge buzz with the announcement, but the company did announce a new $50 thin client device dubbed "Ophelia" that is basically a way to mix and match operating systems on a USB Flash drive-size device. It could be a very smart move from Dell as we move into a future where many of us use multiple operating systems. 

As InfoWorld notes

"Project Ophelia' is the fruit of Dell's acquisition of thin-client vendor Wyse. The idea is, you plug it into any compatible television or monitor, and you have access to your apps and data via the cloud. The device is built on Android 4 OS to support Web browsing and multimedia playback, plus Android applications, according to Dell. It also securely connects to Windows desktops and applications running on back-end systems running infrastructure from Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware, per Dell."

The key to this is that VMware is already on board, and the Ophelia device (seen here) can instantly--through virtualization--allow a user to flip between operating systems and applications for them. This can open up the opportunity to use a broad array of applications intended for distinct environments.

Sure, some of us already use USB devices to flip between operating systems, but most users respond better to something easy on a pre-customized device than they do to having to customize installations themselves. Plus, Ophelia is designed to plug into many kinds of displays very easily so users can get going quickly.

According to Dell's announcement:

"Built on Dell Wyse software technology already used on millions of devices, Project Ophelia transforms ordinary displays into a window to entertainment, communications and a person’s own personal cloud. The device also allows business users to instantly turn a display into a flexible, securely managed, communications-enabled thin client for work, demos or presentations. These capabilities are packed into a device barely larger than a USB stick that is self-powered through a monitor and easily fits inside your pocket.

The product addresses a variety of uses being fueled by the growing need to access cloud-based apps and resources at any time, or whenever a larger screen high definition digital display provides a superb user experience."

This idea from Dell falls right in line with a trend that we've been following as users of proprietary operating systems have increasingly warmed up to Linux, Android, Chrome OS and other open environments: We are heading for a multiple-OS future, where virtualization lets users flip between platforms easily and use broad arrays of applications. Some of us are already there, but Ophelia could be the key to moving millions of users toward this usage model.