Price of desktops slashed as £35 thin clients hit UK

US hardware and software manufacturer NComputing is offering thin client computing to UK users for £35 per device.

US hardware and software manufacturer NComputing is offering thin client computing to UK users for £35 per device.

Analysts said IT directors should consider the devices for IT environments with fixed application requirements, such as call centres and schools.

Thin client computing enables end-users to run terminals rather than fully fledged desktop PCs. All applications are run on a shared server, and the low-powered thin client device simply displays the graphical user interface and provides mouse and keyboard input.

Thin client computing has traditionally required powerful server hardware, but NComputing’s system allows IT departments to use a standard desktop PC as a server.

Each X Series kit includes three hardware terminals, server software for the terminals, and a proprietary PCI card. Users still need mice, keyboards and monitors, but they can reuse existing components to reduce costs.

The terminal connection software is designed to divide the desktop PC’s hardware and software into independent sessions, where each user is given access to their own virtual PC. It runs on any version of Windows and supports the five most popular versions of Linux, including Ubuntu, SuSE, and Fedora.

As well as the X Series, NComputing also sells an L Series for £90, which connects users via Ethernet, broadband, or a local area network.

Hewlett-Packard also sells a thin client computing product, the HP 441, which costs £200. This device gives four users access to a PC and is shipped with four monitors, keyboards and mice. It is aimed primarily at the education market.

Mark Margevicius, research director at analyst firm Gartner, said IT managers should consider using thin client architecture if their organisations have structured-task workers – for example, in a call centre – or they have predictable client application requirements.

Simon Yates, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said the success of thin client computing in smaller end-user environments would be dependent on keeping training and maintenance to a minimum.

Obtaining additional licences for Windows machines could be an issue, said Yates, but educational users tend to benefit from attractive licensing options. “In the education market, Microsoft tends to pursue an aggressive pricing model of about £10 per extra user,” he said.

NComputing has already sold its X Series product in more than 70 countries including the US, Thailand, Turkey, the Philippines and India. Along with its use in schools, the thin client has been deployed in the public sector and call centres.

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