HTML5 clients let users access remote desktops and applications through a Web browser, which lets them work from any device, anywhere.
Other virtual desktop clients need to be installed locally on a device to send, receive and render remote protocol data, but HTML5 clients live on a server. End users visit a website to access their remote desktops.
There are other ways to access a desktop or application through a browser that are not HTML5, however. A good way to tell if you're using a true HTML5 client is whether it has plug-ins. Most browsers have plug-ins, but true HTML5 clients don't have or need them.
HTML5 clients on the market today include Ericom AccessNow, VMware Blast (formerly AppBlast), Citrix Receiver for HTML5 and Oracle Secure Global Desktop.
Protocols are key
When HTML5 first emerged, the user experience was not great, but improvements in the way clients use protocols have made it a viable way for users to reach their desktops. For example, the WebSockets protocol runs on top of TCP and lets the browser and remote server communicate in binary. Older versions of WebSockets used text instead of binary, which made for an unreliable connection.
Other HTML5 clients have added optimizations, such as the ability to gain remote desktop data from a gateway that reads the RDP information before passing it along. Still other clients, such as Blast, pull the HTML5 remote desktop protocol information out of the video card driver itself.
Advantages of using HTML5 clients
One of the biggest advantages of HTML5 is that is makes remote desktop access and usage easy. Because HTML5 clients don't need plug-ins, users can access their desktops from any device with a compatible browser over any Internet connection. In the age of mobility and consumerization, that's a huge plus.
Another advantage of using HMTL5 clients to access remote desktops is that they don't look or feel significantly different than desktops accessed from a local client. In fact, technological advancements in GPU acceleration mean that users get a markedly better experience.
GPU acceleration speeds up video performance and offloads processing from the CPU. The CPU is busy with other tasks, such as decoding most of the other parts of the desktop, so the fact that browsers can use GPU means users' desktops can unpack images and videos quickly, without disrupting the rest of the user experience.