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A virtual phone inside a virtual cloud desktop is now an actual thing

Amazon's desktops-as-a-service upgrade to handle unified communications

By Simon Sharwood, 3 Feb 2016

Amazon Web Services has tweaked its Workspaces cloudy virtual desktops service, adding the ability to voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) software.

The company says it's now possible to take audio from whatever client device you use to run Workspaces' client app, then pipe it Skype, Lync or WebEx running on the cloudy virtual desktop. A headset is required to pull off the trick.

Unified communications tools, as VoIP programs are called once they put on a suit and go to work, are now utterly mainstream on business desktops. It's therefore far from a risk for AWS to add it to Workspaces.

When we last reviewed Workspaces, we worried about stability and lagginess. For AWS to add VoIP to the service it must feel such irritations are behind it. Either that or it believes users are willing to tolerate unpleasant exchanges on the phone.

AWS has also tweaked the service so that it works on devices like the Surface Pro 4 and recent Lenovo Yoga devices that have very high pixel count screens.

That's a nice addition, but hardly one that brings AWS' desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) closer to parity with more conventional desktop virtualisation (VDI) rigs. VMware and Citrix have of late pushed hard on virtual Linux desktops and GPU passthrough to make VDI more applicable to demanding users and therefore more palatable to organisations that run lots of different types of desktops for different users. Adding unified comms to its DaaS is therefore useful, but leaves Workspaces a fair way behind the state of the virtual desktop art.

It surely remains remarkable, however, that one can now run a soft phone inside a virtual desktop and still pop calls out into the PSTN. ®

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