The Raspberry Pi is now well-known with makers and tech enthusiasts where the low cost flexible computer has found hundreds of uses with millions of users.
In fact, they are now shipping over 250,000 devices per month! Impressive for what has primarily been a Do-It-Yourself kit that you buy from Amazon.
One of the more interesting business uses of the Raspberry Pi has been as a low-cost Thin Client. Early innovators like Muhammad Dawood , Martin Rowan and Tobias Kreidl have enhanced the platform and demonstrated the capability and use cases.
Thin Client management vendor ThinLinx used the Citrix HDX-SoC SDK to leverage the Raspberry Pi 2 GPU with H.264 decoding to accelerate video performance in a hardened Linux OS image TLXOS. ThinLinx also integrated the TLXOS image with their management platform and console to provide comprehensive administrative control for thousands of devices.
There are some missing features like webcams, dual monitors and smartcard support. Plus, there is no established hardware supplier that currently provides an order-able, pre-loaded, supported solution.
However, following the Clay Christensen Disruptive Innovation Theory, it is just a matter of time for disruptive products to catch up to to mainstream requirements. As depicted in the chart above, these innovations often start below the requirements line, based on performance. However, technology advancements improve faster than customer requirements. Often these disruptive innovations can open new markets based on low cost and new uses which then benefits from the increased scale. Initially the low-cost disruptor starts with a low-end niche market.
As features and performance improve, mainstream customers in large markets find the new platform good-enough and are attracted by lower costs. Traditional vendors react by ignoring the low margin disrupter and pursue more demanding customers that will pay for premium features and performance. The problem is this becomes a niche “high-end” market with shrinking revenue and market opportunity. By then they have been disrupted !
The $50 billion business PC industry fits many of the classic disruptive innovation theory scenarios. In the past, Moore’s law helped grow the PC market, providing faster CPUs to run increasingly demanding applications.
Now, however, desktop applications are increasingly virtualized and delivered via Citrix. Typical business users don’t care if they have a PC with a 2.0 GHz CPU, or 3.0 or 4.0 as long as it works well and looks good. There are still some demanding PC requirements for business apps like CAD and video processing, but this, more and more, fits the high-end niche market scenario.
In the past, the Thin Client market suffered because of the stigma of inferior performance suitable only for certain use cases.
Check out this user experience from Thomas Berger.
On the server side, Citrix/VDI technology has improved to the point where Thin Clients can replace most business PCs. On the client side, performance and features have also improved to accommodate most stationary desktop requirements. The problem now is a high performance Thin Client costs $400-$600–often as much as a PC. As a result, most existing Thin Client sales are based on security and manageability vs cost. This limits the motivation and opportunity to replace the hundreds of millions of business PCs.
The Raspberry Pi (with Citrix HDX ) has created the opportunity to disrupt the Thin Client and Business PC market.
Windows 10 migration will motivate most businesses to plan a PC refresh strategy in 2016. Many organizations are already considering desktop virtualization, but many have been held back for cost reasons. A Raspberry Pi based Thin Client that costs $65–not to mention the security and manageability benefits of a Zero Client device–changes the economics dramatically.
Expect some real distruption in 2016. The Raspberry Pi could also provide a new HBR case study for Clay Christensen if he writes his next followup to his Innovators Dilemma best seller book.
What gaps and opportunity do you see for the Raspberry Pi with Citrix HDX ?
Try it yourself; Trond Erik Haavarstein has great step by step directions here.