Embedding streaming video methods in hardware is not particularly new, but Citrix’ latest spin on the concept may change not only the buildouts but the price points for tablet PCs as soon as next year. Citrix is one of the key competitors in the virtual desktop market, streaming the video and audio from operating systems run in the cloud to all types of clients, including Android tablets, iPads, and iPhones.

But Citrix also owns the codecs it uses for streaming multimedia to XenDesktop and Citrix Receiver clients at high speed over bandwidth-challenged connections. We’ve talked about it here on RWW not two weeks ago: It’s called HDX, and up until now, the one key benefit that standardized codecs such as H.264 had over HDX was that manufacturers could get H.264 in hardware.

At its annual conference in Barcelona this morning, Citrix announced it’s taking care of that little problem. Its new initiative is called HDX Ready System-on-a-Chip (SoC), and it already has the backing of tablet PC makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard. Citrix’ goal is nothing short of astounding, if it’s possible: Reduce the total manufacturing costs for a complete client capable of displaying a hosted virtual PC stream, to less than fifty bucks.

“We’ve talked to partners about creating HDX Ready displays, keyboards and even mice!” reports Citrix desktop marketing team manager Benjamin Baer in a blog post this morning. “That is, you buy a display or a keyboard and all you have to do is plug it into a XenDesktop enabled network and you get the full HDX experience.

“Citrix is focused on dramatically lowering the bill of materials for HDX Ready systems,” Baer continues. “We believe that in the not-too-distant future, we can deliver reference designs that will cost our partners well below $50 to create and manufacture. This should very clearly enable new HDX Ready clients that retail for under $100. Clients at this price will demolish the last hurdle for massive virtual desktop adoption.”

Wyse is another of the early partners on-board with Citrix’ new hardware. This morning, it released a video (shown above) depicting a very-low-profile Wyse Xenith reference unit serving as a thin client driving two HD video streams simultaneously, one with full-motion video, and the other with a live application.

“One thing will be certain,” Citrix’ Baer writes. “By this time next year, the impact of this initiative will be positively experienced by all Citrix customers and end users!”

scott fulton