Rove Mobile extends remote access to desktop

Ottawa-based Rove Mobile Inc. is launching a service for handheld devices, giving business and consumer users alike the ability to access their desktop PCs from the road.

The PCMobilizr allows users to remotely operate their home or office computers from either BlackBerry or Windows Mobile handhelds. Users will be able to see their desktop screen display, as well as access all their files and applications. Additionally, the handheld keypad allows for control of the remote desktop’s keyboard and mouse.

The product is based on Rove’s much more technical Mobile Desktop software, which was geared toward IT managers and professionals. In creating a more consumer-friendly product, Rove is hoping to attract a broader user group – including those who may not know how to connect to their computer’s network address.

“The key to this product is the simplicity and easiness to configure it,” Paul Dumais, CTO at Rove, said. “The user doesn’t need to know the IP address of the computer it wants to connect to or whether or not it’s behind a firewall. The software basically takes care of the whole process.”

PCMobilizr software is installed onto both the user’s phone and the desktop computer they want to access. For a cost of $9.50 a month, users can gain access to the PCMobilizr Service, where they can log on via an account name and password to start using the service. The company is also looking at ways to have wireless carriers such as Rogers, Bell and Telus offer the PCMobilizr service to subscribers on their monthly bill.

And while the average consumer may be the target for this service, some analysts say it may be the business user that benefits most from the service.

“This is really for the mobile worker, who’s on the go and suddenly realizes that they need an important document or file that’s sitting on their home or office desktop and nobody is around to send it to them,” Michelle Warren, senior research analyst at London, Ont.’s Info-Tech Research Group, said.

Rove said that the PCMobilizr operates around routers and firewalls, which makes it easily accessible to the average handheld user. As for potential data security issues, the PCMobilizr is certified with a 256-bit SSL encryption. But according to Warren though, the stability of the network could be a larger question for potential users.

“Security is always going to be an issue, but what if the network goes down?” Warren said. “If people come to rely on the service and the network goes down it could cause headaches.”

And despite the PCMobilizr’s convenience, Warren does not expect the software to see widespread adoption in the enterprise anytime soon. “In terms of demand for this, I’m not sure how strong it is,” Warren said. “I haven’t heard of high numbers of employees ever looking for this kind of service. It’s almost like an insurance policy more than anything else.”

The PCMobilizr service is only compatible with Windows-based operating systems at the press time, but Rove said a Mac OS version is in the works and should be released in the coming months.

The company said plans to support iPhone, Nokia and Google Android-based phones are also in the works.

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