Microsoft, HP Stretch Education Budgets in Emerging Markets

Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard are helping schools in emerging markets stretch their computers budgets with a new system that's designed to increase student access to computers and help equip them with the computer literacy skills they will need to be competitive after they graduate.

Equipped with Microsoft's recently released Windows MultiPoint Server 2010, the HP MultiSeat Computing Solution was designed for schools in emerging markets that don't have the money to buy a PC for every student, or even for every seat in a computer lab, said James Pak, business unit manager at HP's Personal Systems Group.

The MultiSeat Computing Solution is comprised of a single PC that is connected with up to 10 clients over a USB 2.0 connection. Each client is equipped with connections for a monitor, keyboard and mouse, but doesn't have its own processor. All of the processing is handled by the PC, which acts as a server, with each client accessing a separate instance of Windows 7 that can be centrally administered.

The system is designed so that schools can give twice as many students access to computers than would be possible by spending the same amount of money on standalone PCs, Pak said. Estimated pricing is about US$300 per seat, assuming a configuration of five or 10 users, he said.

The technology behind MultiSeat Computing Solution isn't new. For example, NComputing has long offered a similar system, based on its U-Series client, which also uses a USB connection to link multiple client with a server. But Hewlett-Packard is one of the biggest PC vendors in Asia and has tremendous marketing muscle and an aggressive sales force.

Already, the MultiSeat Computing Solution system and Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 has been deployed at two schools in Indonesia and trials are underway at other schools in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, said Camille Mazo, director of business development at Microsoft's Unlimited Potential Group in Asia.

The HP MultiSeat Computing Solution comes in two configurations, one with a PC that's designed for five users and another that's designed for 10. The basic system includes a PC with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard disk, along with up to five client modules. The high-end version has a Core 2 Quad processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard disk, with up to 10 client modules.

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