Ncomputing Kit Talks to Virtual Desktops Over USB

Ncomputing is launching a device that can be used to add a virtual client to a host PC via a USB connection.

The U170 can run full multimedia applications when it is connected to a host machine's USB port. Multiple U170 boxes can add extra users to a host machine, which can be cheaper than buying separate machines, said Carsten Puls, vice president of strategic marketing at Ncomputing.

The device has a video port, audio port and two USB ports for the keyboard and mouse. "The only thing you have to connect back to the PC is a single USB connection," Puls said.

The device is priced at US$99 and will be available by the end of the year, Puls said. Users must still buy a monitor and peripherals to complete a workstation.

Beyond reducing the need for a PC, the device also helps reduce energy costs, Puls said. It draws about 2 watts of power, Puls said, far less than a full clients PC.

In this case, the USB cable takes the place of the Ethernet cable for a client to communicate with a host machine. Virtual desktop software from Ncomputing called Vspace on host machines sets up individual desktops as new U170 boxes are connected. One host PC can support up to four boxes.

Vspace is compatible with multiple versions of Windows, including Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 OS.

The company is targeting small-and-medium businesses with the device. The typical USB cable extends up to five feet, but USB extenders can lengthen that. The company has set up configurations where the device connects to PCs from up to 50 feet.

USB has advantages as the ports are included on most PCs, but over longer distances it may be better to use Ethernet, Puls said. The company has other products that let users access host PCs over Ethernet.

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