Ina Fried

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Is it Wyse to Make Your Best-Selling iPad App Free?

After selling more than 250,000 copies of its PocketCloud program for iPhones, iPads and Android, Wyse is taking a big gamble. It’s making the remote desktop app free.

PocketCloud is one of a number of programs that let people remotely access a PC or Mac from their iPad or iPod, thereby accessing files or even running full-blown applications that wouldn’t otherwise work on a mobile device. The company originally hoped to sell 100,000 copies, but now expects 2010 sales to be triple that amount.

So with sales so strong, just why would Wyse want to start giving it away?

“We want more people to download it and see the dream themselves,” CEO Tarkan Maner told Mobilized in an interview on Wednesday.

You see, it turns out that a lot of people don’t really think hip mobile applications when they think about Wyse, a company that specializes in the rather obscure world of thin clients.

“People usually do not associate the brand with something this cool,” Maner said.

But things like iPad apps are an increasingly important part of what Wyse does these days. Although PocketCloud’s roughly $3 million in revenue is just over 1 percent of total company sales, the unit is the fastest-growing part of the company.

Maner isn’t totally giving away the store. The company plans to keep selling a premium version of PocketCloud for $15 that includes enterprise features like advanced security, VGA-out and the ability to connect with VMWare’s technology. Maner said he is so sure that enough of the free users will upgrade that Wyse will still be able to grow its PocketCloud revenue substantially next year.

“This is a capitalistic world,” he said. “We want people to go to the premium version.”

Wyse also faces a lot of competition, from enterprise firms like Citrix to rivals like LogMeIn to tiny mom-and-pop operations.

“Every Tom, Dick and Harry has an application” for remote access, Maner said. However, he maintained that most of the programs support only one or two protocols and often use a proprietary back-end system that locks users in.

“In the long term we believe our model is the winning model,” he said. “It gives users freedom.”

The company is also working to add new features. Maner wouldn’t share all the plans, but said to think rich media.

“We are going to do a lot of stuff around video,” he said, pointing to opportunities in both streaming as well as gaming and bi-directional video.

It’s the latest reinvention of a 30-year-old company that dates back to the mainframe and minicomputer era. In the mid-’90s, Wyse went through a reinvention to center around thin clients that allowed bank tellers and other task workers to use a quiet, low-power terminal as opposed to a full-fledged PC.

“We hate PCs,” Maner said. “We want these things in the cloud.”

Of course, thankfully for Wyse, not everyone feels the same way. Free or not, PocketCloud would be useless if it weren’t for the fact that most of the rest of us depend on those bulky, hard-drive-equipped PCs Maner derides.

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