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Microsoft Releases Windows MultiPoint Server 2010

Microsoft on Wednesday announced the rollout of Windows MultiPoint Server 2010, a shared computing solution for schools, libraries and labs.

The software allows a single computer to be shared across multiple terminals. The computer forms a network by connecting user stations via USB breakout boxes and standard multiport video cards. Users just need USB-based devices at each station -- such as a monitor, keyboard and mouse -- to access the computer hub.

A Microsoft video shows how the system is set up in a short period of time. Instructors can create student accounts on the server and share documents in public folders across terminals. Students can get access to the all of the programs stored on the server.

Microsoft released Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on Wednesday. HP has already begun offering its MultiSeat product using Microsoft's software to customers worldwide. Other Microsoft partners planning to deploy Microsoft's solution on hardware for worldwide sales include "DisplayLink, NComputing, ThinGlobal, Tritton Technologies Inc. and Wyse Technology Inc.," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Microsoft also has OEM hardware partners distributing the server in local markets, including "Howard, Positivo, Seneca Data and Tarox," the announcement stated. In addition, ISVs will develop custom applications for the server, including "AB Consulting, LanSchool Technologies and NetSupport Ltd."

For Microsoft, the concept of Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 extends back to 2001, when a Microsoft Terminal Server architect demonstrated a prototype of the system, according to Mark Aggar, director of environmental technology strategy at Microsoft, in a blog post. He said the concept was later shepherded by Microsoft Research India and Microsoft's Unlimited Potential Group. The system is capable of running up to 15 PCs at a time, according to Aggar.

A limiting factor may be how Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 is purchased. The product is available from Microsoft's OEMs or through the Microsoft Academic Volume Licensing program. Availability through academic licensing will begin on March 1.

When purchasing the server through OEMs, specific license purchases are required (see Microsoft's table here). An organization needs to buy a license for Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 on the host computer. In addition, Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 client access licenses (CALs) for each station need to be bought. Under this arrangement, the licensing is limited to 10 stations maximum, depending on the hardware.

There's no limit on the number of stations (except limited by the hardware) if Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 is purchased through the Microsoft Academic Volume Licensing program. However, an organization will need to purchase a Windows MultiPoint Server Academic license for the host computer and then purchase two CALs for each station: a Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 CAL and a Windows Server 2008 CAL.

Should all of those licensing costs prove expensive, a company called Userful Corp. offers a similar shared computing technology based on Linux. Userful issued an announcement earlier this month stating that it had pioneered this technology back in 2002 using Linux.

Userful's "multiseat Linux desktop virtualization" solution is currently used by 30,000 schools worldwide, according to its announcement. Up to 10 students can share a single PC at a cost of $69 per seat using the technology. The company released its Multiplier V3.7 solution this month, which supports more than 10 Linux distributions, including "Ubuntu 9.10, SLED 11 and Fedora 11." The solution works with nearly all open source software, according to Userful's announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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