Dell’s Cloud-Friendly Project Ophelia Inches Closer To Release As Testers Receive Early Units

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Google’s $35 Chromecast dongle may have made all the headlines this week, but the folks in Mountain View aren’t the only ones working on curious gadgets that plug into your TV’s HDMI ports.

Dell showed off its Android-powered Project Ophelia dongle all the way back in January, and it managed to turn a few heads… until its tentative launch window came and went without much fanfare. Now, though, it looks like early devices are finally on their way to testers ahead of a full launch in the coming months.

Not exactly familiar with Project Ophelia? Let’s flash back to CES 2013 when Dell showed it off for the first time – long story short, you plug Ophelia into your TV (any other display with an HDMI input) and Android 4.0 fires up so you can mess around on the web and download apps from the Google Play Store. Of course, that concept isn’t exactly new: Countless tiny Android devices that plug straight into your television have popped up on crowdfunding sites and Chinese bulk ordering sites for what feels like ages now.

Ophelia’s big differentiator, though, is its support for Dell’s Wyse cloud computing tech, which allows users to (among other things) remotely access files stored on PCs or servers and connect to Citrix or VMware-powered virtual machines. The company’s eagerness to show off Ophelia’s enterprise chops could go a long way in justifying the device’s roughly $100 price tag, but what’s even more interesting is the very fact that a huge PC manufacturer is moving to embrace such a strange little segment of the market.

Considering the state of the PC market, though, it’s not hard to see why a company like Dell would put together something as peculiar as Ophelia. PC players have been feeling the squeeze that comes with declining demand over the past months since people are starting to give up more traditional computers for mobile devices. Dell definitely isn’t immune to this sea change, either – its most recent earnings report revealed that its end-user computing division (which accounts for PC sales to consumers) dipped 9 percent from last year. Dell’s Ophelia may just legitimize what is now a largely underwhelming class of gadgetry, thanks to its potential prowess as both a consumer and enterprise device, but it may take more than an aggressive price point and some nifty new features to make Ophelia into something worth owning. For Dell’s sake, here’s hoping Project Ophelia doesn’t meet the same fate as its Shakespearean counterpart did.