CES: Dell’s “Ophelia” Promises Cloud Anywhere

This Ophelia plugs into an MHL port on a television or monitor.

One of Dell’s big CES announcements is “Project Ophelia,” a small device about the size of a USB stick that allows users to access their “personal cloud” by inserting it into a nearby television or monitor. Dell is positioning the hardware as an ideal companion of not only businesspeople who need to access materials on the road, but also gamers and students.

According to Dell, Ophelia will be a real product by the second half of 2013. In essence, it’s a business-focused version of the Roku Streaming Stick, a USB key-like device that gives HDTVs access to services such as Netflix and Amazon. Roku charges around $99 for that piece of hardware; Dell hasn’t announced a price for its own device, yet.

Ophelia is basically a Dell Wyse thin-client device squeezed into an ultra-compact form. It offers both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity; it’s compatible with many existing Wyse thin-client products; and it features software manageable via the Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager. Perhaps the most eye-catching detail, however, is that Dell decided to build Ophelia using Android 4.0, which allows the device to take advantage of that ecosystem’s apps and games.

“People are increasingly requiring access to digital content while on the go, in both their work and personal lives,” Tarkan Maner, vice president and general manager, Cloud Client Computing at Dell, wrote in a statement. “Mobile devices have small screens, tablets and PCs aren’t always convenient to haul around, and all these devices require batteries that can run down.”

Ophelia will rely on an MHL port—which provides its own power but isn’t found on many televisions and monitors—instead of an HDMI connection. Dell ships monitors with MHL enabled; the interface is also present in rival products, including Samsung’s Series 9 displays. Dell also stated that Ophelia could receive power from a separate, dedicated USB interface.

Ophelia will face significant competition from Roku, which announced at CES that it had convinced Coby, Harmon Kardon and Westinghouse Digital to a) adopt the MHL interface and b) certify their monitors as Roku compatible. It’s unclear whether Dell will require its own list of certified devices—and why it chose to name its device after the drowned lady in a Shakespeare play:

 

This Ophelia does not plug easily into an MHL port.

 

Images: Dell, Sir John Everett Millais

 

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