Dell’s Ophelia to Join Google Chromecast in Dongle Market

Dell reportedly is shipping a beta of Project Ophelia, which is about the size of a USB storage device and can turn a TV into a cloud-based computer.

Dell, just days after Google introduced its Chromecast “dongle” users can plug into televisions to get streaming content, reportedly has begun beta shipments of its own mini device, dubbed Project Ophelia.

First introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in January, Ophelia is slightly larger than a USB storage device and, when inserted, can turn a TV set into a cloud-based computer. The idea is to essentially let users carry their computing device in their pockets, and then access it by plugging it into an HDMI port in a television set or monitor.

Not much about Project Ophelia has come out from Dell since its unveiling at CES, but the company now is reportedly shipping beta models to developers, with the plan to introduce a commercial device in the third quarter, according to PCWorld.

At a time when sales of traditional PCs are slowing down worldwide as consumers and business users turn more of their attention and tech dollars to smartphones and tablets, system makers like Dell are looking for new form factors that will interest buyers in an increasingly mobile, always-connected world. The dongles from Dell and Google also are coming at a time when Apple and Intel are looking to make moves into the TV market, via such devices as set-top boxes.

Apple already offers the $99 Apple TV, through which users can access content from their iOS devices that is shown on their own televisions.

Google on July 24 introduced Chromecast, a $35 dongle that also plugs into an HDMI slot on a high-definition TV. Users can direct video content to the TV via a smartphone, tablet or PC that is running either Google’s Android operating system, Apple’s iOS or Microsoft’s Windows. The content—from sites like Netflix, YouTube and Google Play—comes from the cloud to the TV, with the mobile device acting like the remote control, according to Google officials.

Dell’s Ophelia has the multimedia element to it. Through the device, users can access photos, music or video from a personal cloud or subscription entertainment site. At the same time, the Ophelia device gives workers on the road a secure way of accessing and sharing work applications, presentations and business content.

Ophelia, which reportedly will be priced in the $100 range, is based on Google’s Android 4.0 OS, which makes it easier to browse the Web, play back video, use social networking applications, as well as access Android apps. Once the device is plugged into a television set, users can connect to a remote desktop through several virtualization platforms, including VMware, Citrix Systems and Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

Accessories like keyboards and mice will connect via Bluetooth, and reportedly will come with Dell management software and the company’s Wyse PocketCloud technology for remote access to files stored on PCs, servers or mobile devices. It will come with 1GB of RAM and WiFi capabilities, will be powered by a Rockchip RK 3066 chip, and will enable users to stream content from Netflix and Hulu.