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"n" Individuals Benefit With Ncomputings Learning Solutions

By: Erica Nielsen

NComputing is changing the educational computing world not one user at a time, not one computer at a time, but on a much broader scheme -- in fact, entire school districts, corporations, international conferences, and Internet cafes are all reaping near-instantaneous benefits, in addition to new market segments that have been reached as a result of affordability. The key of the model is sharing, a simple concept that we are taught as toddlers, yet is rarely cultivated in our culture when it comes to technologies. If you are one of the 850 million people who owns a personal computer (and probably an iPod and mobile phone as well), you know exactly what I mean.

What became very clear with the One Laptop Per Child project and subsequent similar projects was that at 1:1 user/laptop ratio doesn't work well. The main reason is cost, which includes hardware, software, and support. A computing initiative must offer superior quality in all of these areas otherwise it is bound for failure. Yet overall high quality and a 1:1 ratio, as we have learned, are opposing forces even with our current, cutting-edge computing options. It's ironic because today it's possible to build computers that are 1,000 times better than a decade ago that can be manufactured for less than half the price. Computers are now so powerful that a single user only uses a small fraction of the computer's capabilities.

Stephen Dukker, the mastermind behind the first dramatic price reduction in computers, the eMachine, is currently working on another major breakthrough in his role as the CEO of NComputing: the multi-user, Virtual PC experience. As the founder and CEO of eMachines, Dukker learned an important lesson that he carried over to NComputing: You simply can't build a computer for less than $400. So, instead of focusing his efforts on producing a cheaper computer, he looked for a way to harvest the possibilities of one computer and dared to defy the defining 1:1 ratio of U.S. technology culture.

The concept is refreshing, brilliant, and eco-friendly. With NComputing's solutions, a single computer can act as a server to power between 7 to 30 virtual PC access terminals -- in other words, multiple people can work off the same computer simultaneously running all types of applications. A server-class machine could support hundreds of users working from a single source. The greatest risk to this model is that if the mother computer goes out, so do the rest. In such a case, students working in a lab could temporarily look over the shoulders of their peers, or an instructor might hook up a backup computer. Still, two brand new computers plus NComputing's superior technologies for as low as $70 a seat is much more cost-friendly than a 1:1 solution.

NComputing has already gained 4-5 percent of the educational computing market for K-12 schools, and is making a tremendous impact around the world. It will soon supply Macedonian schools with units to support 180,000 seats for less than half the cost of other bidders. In Mexico, 4,500 seats have already been deployed, and even in the most remote areas NComputing renders possible mobile Internet "cafes" that travel from village to village in the form of a large shipping container. About 50 percent of NComputing's market is abroad, with Brazil being the largest international purchaser, and the rest of the sales split between places including Eastern Europe, Mexico, India, the Philippines, and Russia. NComputing has distribution centers in 80 countries and offices in 12.

NComputing's ability to think beyond the 1:1 ratio of computer/user that is so prevalent in our culture has resulted in a unique and affordable solution that already boasts results. The Wall Street Journal noticed this and recognized NComputing with its 2007 Technology Innovation Award. NComputing lives up to its name, "n" being the mathematical sign that stands for any number. When asked what was in a name, Mr. Dukker replied that NComputing means removing the last barriers of computing so that everyone can have access.

WebEx Briefing and phone interview with Mr. Stephen Dukker, 1/16/2008.

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About The Author, Erica Nielsen

Erica Nielsen is a published author and Assistant Editor of the e-learning blog XplanaZine (

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