A Windows 10 virtual desktop running on a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.

Image: Citrix

Work to turn the $35 Raspberry Pi board into a thin client for Windows and Linux virtual desktops appears to be paying off.

Desktop virtualization specialist Citrix has been working with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to allow the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B to run various operating systems as a virtual desktop.

Following software tweaks, Citrix has demonstrated the Pi 2 running a Windows 10 virtual desktop with a 1600 x 1200 resolution at just over 19 frames per second, a bit low for smooth video but acceptable for everyday use.

Using the Pi 2 as a Citrix virtual desktop has been made possible by work to get the Citrix Linux Receiver virtual desktop client running on Raspbian on the Pi 2, as well as optimizations to Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp 7.6 FP3 and the HDX Thinwire compatibility codec.

“This helps enable a full, supported Linux Receiver on a $35 device,” says Allen Furmanski of Citrix in a blog posting.

At $35 the Pi 2 is lower cost than many competing thin client devices, with Citrix’s Furmanski describing the Pi 2 running a Linux virtual desktop and OpenOffice as a “seriously cheap yet capable VDI solution”.

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that firms will likely have to buy their own 5V power supply, case, Wi-Fi dongle (if the Pi’s 100Mbps Ethernet connectivity is not an option) and SD card for each board, as well as factoring in the cost of the keyboard, mouse and monitor, which is a consideration for any thin client machine.

Optimizing the virtual desktop to run on the Pi 2 will also require some command line tweaks.

Another option for businesses looking to use the Pi 2 for virtual desktops is the ThinLinx Operating System. The offering cost $15 per device and has been demoed streaming a Windows 7 desktop at 1080p on the Pi 2 at a frame rate smooth enough to watch a HD video.

Although Windows 10 is available for the Raspberry Pi it isn’t the full desktop version of the Microsoft OS, but rather a cut-down version called Windows IoT Core aimed at support Internet of Things appliances.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation continues to diversify beyond its core goal of getting kids to code, recently offering firms willing to buy more than 3,000 Pi boards the ability to customise the Pi’s layout.

About one million Pi boards are used in industrial, embedded or consumer devices each year and Raspberry Pi co-creator Eben Upton told TechRepublic offering bespoke boards could encourage businesses to buy the Pi in even larger quantities.

Since the launch of the Raspberry Pi in February 2012 a variety of new boards have been released, most recently the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero.

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Want Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi? It's virtually possible