How Cheap Could Computing Get…Free?

If you assume a desktop computer’s a big box full of chips, hard drives and other paraphernalia, it’s hard to see how to make it cheaper. Unless you go down the virtualization route: NComputing thinks the ultimate cost could be zero, reports Fast Company.

Ncomputing makes powerful chips that make thin clients work: Essentially turning a keyboard, mouse, monitor and small box of electronics into a fully-functioning powerful Windows or Linux PC, with its real complex “guts” in a different location accessed over a network, and serving up desktops to many different users.

The company’s system-on-a-chip solution is currently used all around the world, and can result in creating a “desktop” for a user in an office for as little as $70 (plus monitor, keyboard and so on.) The system centers on one normal desktop PC, and can create about 10 to 20 thin clients from this single machine–a modern super-efficient version of the old mainframe system, and it’s green too, since the clients consume much less electricity than full PCs.

But now the company has a new chip, the $20 Numo, which is far more powerful. It has two ARM CPUs inside and can serve up rich multimedia experiences as well as coping with the more limited demands of typical business computing tasks. The design is so powerful that LG is planning on selling monitors with Numos inside–which may result in “PCs” for business or educational use that amount to only around $200.

Ncomputing’s CEO Stephen Dukker sees the model developing even further in the future, with that notional price for a “PC” dropping to well below $200. In his mind it could even drop toward zero. Of course, it’ll never get there, as someone has to make a profit for the business to function. But as we’ve seen with the recent netbook phenomenon, there is capacity for a PC market to be turned upside down and still remain successful.

Photo by Ncomputing.

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