NComputing added another veteran of industry efforts to bring low-cost computers to emerging markets to its roster last month, hiring former Intel executive Mark Beckford as its vice president of global business development.
Beckford, who was a key executive behind the creation of Intel's World Ahead program, joins Will Poole, who ran Microsoft's Unlimited Potential program, and Lindsay Petrillose, formerly of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), at NComputing. Poole is now NComputing's co-chairman and Petrillose oversees government affairs for the company, which sells virtualization software and devices that allow a dozen or more users to share a single computer.
Beckford, who spent three years working for Intel in China, will help NComputing build closer ties with governments and partners to bring low-cost computers into underserved markets, such as education. "A lot of the focus will be on emerging markets," he said.
The premise behind NComputing's business model, that the raw power of a single PC can be harnessed for multiple users to cut costs and reduce power consumption, is the opposite of Intel, which believes every user should have a computer equipped with a powerful, multi-core processor -- preferably one that was produced by the chip maker itself.
Beckford jokingly admits he "drank the Kool-Aid" during his 10 years at Intel, but said NComputing and its approach to low-cost computing has the potential to be a disruptive force in emerging markets.
"The whole concept of thin clients is obviously a threat to Intel's business model," Beckford said.
However, most thin client devices, such as the Network Computer introduced by Oracle during the 1990s and Advanced Micro Devices' Personal Internet Communicator, lack the performance and capabilities of a PC, which means they are not a threat to Intel's business model.
NComputing is different, Beckford said.
"NComputing has a solution that's effectively a thin client ... that allows you to do pretty much anything you can do on a PC," he said, adding that the processors inside PCs are far more powerful than most users require.
In addition, NComputing's products, which cost between US$70 and $100 per seat, can help governments stretch computing budgets and put more kids in front of computers, even as the current economic downturn forces broad cuts in IT spending, Beckford said.
"A crisis like this is where the [companies] that have really solid products, strategies and innovation are the ones that emerge stronger," he said.