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19 Mar 12 VMware’s WSX Does Virtual Desktops With HTML5

VMware WSX

Accessing a virtualized Windows XP desktop from a tablet with VMware WSX. Photo: Christian Hammond

By Ryan Paul

VMware is developing an impressive new feature called WSX that will allow users to access virtualized desktops remotely through any modern Web browser. VMware developer Christian Hammond, who worked on the implementation, demonstrated a prototype this week in a blog post.

According to Hammond, WSX is built with standards-based Web technologies, including the HTML5 Canvas element and Web Sockets. The user installs and runs a lightweight Web server that acts as a relay between the Web-based client and the virtualized desktop instance. It is compatible with VMware Workstation and ESXi/vSphere.

arstechnicaWSX, which doesn’t require any browser plugins, is compatible out of the box with Firefox, Chrome, and Safari on the desktop. It will also work with mobile Safari on iPads that are running iOS 5 or later. Hammond says that Android compatibility is still a work in progress.

The performance is said to be good enough to provide “near-native quality and framerates” when viewing a 720p YouTube video on the virtualized desktop through WSX in Chrome or Firefox. Users who want to test the feature today can see it in action by downloading the Linux version of the VMware Workstation Technology Preview.

Although it’s still somewhat experimental, WSX is a compelling demonstration of how far the Web has evolved as a platform. It also shows how the ubiquity of Web standards make it possible to deliver complex applications across a wide range of platforms and device form factors.

Hammond also said he was working on tapping the new iPad’s higher resolution:

“The most talked about feature of the new iPad is, of course, the shiny new retina display (a 2048×1536 resolution). A few apps really show this off, and text is certainly crisp, but a few people wondered aloud, ‘Is it really that big of a difference?’ Yes, it is.

Naturally, I had to play around with getting WSX to show a retina-friendly desktop. See, by default, everything is scaled up 2x to simulate the resolution of the original iPad (1024×768), but they have some support in there for loading higher-resolution images. Turns out, with some tricks, you can also make the canvas retina-friendly.”

What say you of VMware’s new WSX? Also, what of the new iPad’s new real estate in this and every business context? I’m thinking virtual or not, the resolution makes the new iPad much more appealing as a work device.

In other HTML5 news

The VMware demo was one of the most impressive HTML5 demos that we saw this week, but there are a few other newsworthy items that we want to share in this roundup.

  • jSFiddle is a handy tool for prototyping, saving, and sharing JavaScript snippets. It’s a bit like pastebin, but it allows you to define separate blocks of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and then see the rendered output in a pane.
  • One of the developers behind Google’s abandoned Wave collaboration tool has published a JavaScript framework for building real-time Web applications with Operational Transformation. The framework can be used to add live concurrent editing to a textbox in a Web page with only a few lines of code.
  • The HTML5 Rocks blog has a great tutorial that demonstrates how the Web Audio API can be used in browser-based games. It provides some good tips for implementing background music, sound effects, and 3D positional sound.
  • The official Chromium blog has published several videos that demonstrate modern Web features and how they can be used.
  • Firebug, a popular Firefox add-on for Web developers, has been moved to GitHub. This will make it easier for people to join the project and contribute improvements.

Crumbs from the cookie jar

If you missed our Web coverage on Ars this week, be sure to check out our hands-on review of Firefox 11, which introduced a new built-in stylesheet editor and 3D DOM viewer. You might also be interested in ourreport on Mozilla’s proposal to support H.264 video playback in mobile Firefox.

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