Amazon (AMZN) Web Services is throwing its name into the desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) hat, taking on the likes of Microsoft (MSFT), VMware (VMW), Citrix (CTXS) and others in what is a growing cloud computing market. The public cloud giant introduced Amazon WorkSpaces at its AWS re:Invent conference this week, and the company took aim at "legacy" DaaS providers in the space.

"Over the past couple years, the new service customers have requested most frequently is a virtual cloud desktop service," said Gene Farrell, general manager of Amazon WorkSpaces, in a prepared statement. "They've been frustrated by the available options—traditional desktops that are hard to manage and keep secure, or virtual desktops that are expensive and deliver inconsistent performance. Amazon WorkSpaces aims to address these issues by offering secure, easy-to-manage, high-performance desktops in the cloud at a fraction of the price of traditional VDI."

Was that the sound of a gauntlet hitting the floor?

Amazon is up against some stiff competition in the space. Citrix and VMware have owned the virtual desktop management space since before we were calling the technology "cloud," and Microsoft has gained some traction in the market by providing its own DaaS offering as an add-on to Office 365.

But, as it is wont to do, Amazon is targeting its competitors where it counts—right in the wallet. AWS is positioning WorkSpaces as a lower-cost DaaS. The standard plan is priced at $35 per month and includes a single virtual CPU and 50GB of storage. The performance plan provides double what is included in the standard plan and is priced at $60 per month.

To specifically target Microsoft, though, Amazon is offering an Office add-on service for $15 per month.

Here are a few of the other benefits AWS noted in its announcement:

  • A selection of different bundles that provides customers with a choice of CPU, memory, storage and applications to launch any number of desktops with a single click. WorkSpaces can also integrate with existing Active Directory deployments to enable end users to use existing enterprise credentials to access WorkSpaces.
  • The ability to install or use applications through WorkSpaces, Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader and Firefox. The DaaS is also compatible with PC and Mac desktops, as well as Apple (AAPL) iPad, Amazon Kindle and Google (GOOG) Android tablets.
  • Security using Teradici technology for enabling the PCoIP (PC-over-IP) protocol to compress, encrypt and encode users' desktop computing experiences and transmitting "pixels only" across any standard IP network to devices. A document sync feature is also launching with the DaaS offering.

The launch of Amazon WorkSpaces provides customers with another DaaS option, and it's something that AWS partners can use to add extra value for their customers.

But should competitors in the space be concerned? AWS certainly is the 800-pound gorilla in the cloud world, and having a DaaS integrated with the rest of its cloud offerings likely will bring in plenty of customers. The public cloud provider's biggest effect on the DaaS space will likely be in reducing overall market pricing, as it has in storage and other cloud compute market segments.

Wait to see what competitors will do now that AWS has officially entered the DaaS space.