Virtual desktops

A web-based desktop that gives a personalised computing experience to people without their own computer?

I've noticed a lot of talk recently on the topic of virtual desktops.

The BBC published an article about Jooce, a free Web-based desktop that aims to give a personalised computing experience to people without their own computers. Stefan Surzych, founder of Jooce described it as "a platform that will make it much easier for the world's cybernomads to manage their digital lives." Targeting the 500,000,000 users logging on from Internet cafes around the world, Jooce delivers a simple Flash-based virtual desktop which allows users to sign in to Instant Messaging clients and upload/download files. There are no additional applications installed.

After signing up and taking a look at Jooce, I couldn't really see what all the fuss was about. The interface was clearly designed to look like Mac OS X, and its functionality is more than a little limited. A user can chat online with Yahoo or MSN messenger and upload/download files. It's quite useful if you want to bypass corporate IM restrictions or quickly move files around. Logging on to Jooce did prompt me to make a mental note that this type of Web site should be added to my firewall's disallowed sites list!

There's no shortage of companies offering virtual desktop services -- a quick Google search turns up a huge variety of hosting firms using platforms like Linux, Citrix and VMware to provide virtual desktop access with good levels of usability. Unlike Jooce, these hosts offer a full desktop environment with Microsoft Office, Outlook/Exchange, file transfer, and the ability to run almost any Windows / Linux application in a personalised secure environment.

Jooce, however, is accessible via a Web browser with no need to install a client application, which is perfect for occasional roaming users (those so called cybernomads). I couldn't find any Citrix/Windows-based virtual desktops with browser access; I'm sure the technology is available, so maybe I haven't looked in the right place yet? Another key point is that Jooce is currently free unlike the more functional examples. I'm not sure that it will remain that way once the beta goes in to production -- if it doesn't, then I'm not sure how many people would pay for such a limited service.

Do you use a hosted remote desktop? If so, what do you use it for?