I just came across an interesting Microsoft Research Project called Merlion which lets you run desktop applications on a mobile phone. The way the system works is that it allows a mobile phone user (on any mobile OS) access to a remote server running some sort of remote desktop software like VNC. Then, without any modifications to the desktop app itself, the user can interact with the original application from their mobile phone using a specially created mobile interface.
End users can create their own Merlion-enabled apps themselves, too, using the Merlion Designer. With this tool, you select the visual portion of the original app you want available on your mobile device and then create an alternative layout designed with your phone’s dimensions in mind. Once the new interface has been created, the Merlion runtime is used to access the desktop app on the server via the new mobile GUI.
In addition, Merlion can increase productivity by automating repetitive actions like logging in or tasks that require multiple interactions. It also can make applications available across different mobile form factors and can allow applications that work on different OS platforms to operate in concert.
Merlion’s ability to create alternative interfaces to applications works for web-based applications, too. Also, it’s not limited to smartphones alone. It could be used to create apps that run on platforms that weren’t originally intended to run apps. For example, Merlion works on basic “feature phones” and handheld gaming devices like the Nintendo DS which supports Wi-Fi.
Pictured is an example of a modified version of the Windows Calculator app, redesigned using Merlin for use on Windows Mobile phone. More screenshots and other details about this project are available in the whitepaper here.