Among the most interesting solutions at the event is the new HP Multiseat Computing solution. HP wanted to simplify IT in the education sector for quicker, easier to maintain and more rapid deployment for small group usage. Many schools don't have the luxury of a dedicated MIS team in the developing countries and more so in the rural areas. So unlike thin client setup infrastructure (considering central manageability), which requires networking know-how and a server, HP eliminated the traditional thin clients and the networking layer altogether. HP's Multiseat Computing involves a host PC (the server if you will), multiple Multiseat devices (a form of thin client device) and the specially Microsoft MultiPoint Server 2010 operating system.
Using just the normal USB 2.0 technology, each Multiseat device is the gateway to connect the input/output peripherals such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse and audio for one user. The operating system manages the rest of the magic through virtualized environments for each Multiseat device or user. The OS itself has a volume licensing for up to 10 users, one on the host machine directly (such as the teacher) and 9 other seats for students.
The host PC can come in various configurations but for the purpose of basic school and library usage deployment, the ms6000 model that debuted in Indonesia uses an Intel Core 2 class PC based on the Intel Q43 chipset and Intel GMA 4500 class integrated graphics engine. The host PC will be sold in standard (5-user system) and extended configuration (10-user system) with differing compute power such as dual-core versus quad-core, memory, storage and other such differences. The limitation of how many users can connect to a system is more to do with the operating system's licensing limitation than anything else. So if you need a system to cater to 20 users, you'll need two sets of this solution. On average, the cost of the entire solution for a 10-user system is about US$3000, which comes out to an average of US$300 per seat which includes the cost of the machine, I/O devices, management, licensing and support for three years - not a bad deal at all. Best of all, adding and removing users is a piece of cake and can be managed by anyone (thanks to USB connectivity).
The downside is that all the companion users need to be seated less than five meters from the host PC since USB has a distance limitation before its effective speed dips. This can however be extended by using powered USB hubs. Otherwise, the entire solution is very ideal to be set up in quick time just about anywhere a simple setup is required. Typical web surfing and simple productivity tasks are most suitable in sharing the compute power of today's high-end PCs. Not to mention are the cost savings in electricity which can be over 80% when compared against typical PC deployments for each user. The Multiseat devices themselves don't require extra power and run off the USB cable so their impact is quite minimal at about 2W on average.
Moving on to other product groups, two notable renewed notebook models that are suitable for this segment are the HP Mini 5102 (a 'business' netbook with the newer Intel Atom N450 processor), and the HP EliteBook 2740p Tablet PC.
Moving up the performance scale, for tertiary education, research and other more demanding tasks, HP has released a brand new range of even more affordable HP Z workstation models under the Z200 class. When the Z class first launched a year ago, they heralded a new age of design, performance, convenience and manageability with the Z800, Z600 and Z400 models. The new Z200 settles for more mainstream workstation performance and straightforward designs to offer an affordable, yet reasonably powerful work machines. Starting from jus US$900 using the new Intel Core i3 processor and integrated graphics, it also comes in more reasonably powerful configurations such as an Intel Xeon 3400 processor and NVIDIA Quadro FX 1800 graphics.