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MultiPoint Server 2010 Coming to the Classroom

Back in the days before PCs, users hooked up to computers using terminals, with the computer itself as a centralized shared resource. Later, the concept evolved into so-called "client-server" computing, with desktop computers connecting to servers.

Now, it seems like what was old is new again, particularly when the topic is education and the vendor is Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

Microsoft Thursday unveiled its MultiPoint Server 2010 -- a system that uses a PC as a central computer and hooks multiple keyboards, monitors, and mice each to it as terminals via USB 2. Called "shared resource computing," each user's experience is as if he or she were the only user on the system. The idea has been championed by other companies over the years, such as NComputing.

"Designed for educational institutions with limited IT resources, Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 enables schools to access technology at a lower overall total cost of ownership with lower ongoing operations costs per user," Ira Snyder, general manager of Windows MultiPoint Server, said in a post to Microsoft's Unlimited Potential blog.

MultiPoint Server 2010 is one of the latest projects for Microsoft's Unlimited Potential group. The group was formed to work on education and economic issues in the developing world.

"Unlimited Potential aims to reach the next 1 billion people by 2015 by exploring solutions in three key interrelated areas …. transforming education, fostering local innovation, [and] enabling jobs and opportunities," according to the group's Web site.

Making features phones smarter

One of the group's latest projects is called OneApp, a mobile phone application platform aimed at turning non-smart "feature" phones into smartphones with the addition of a small piece of code that lets some smartphone apps run on phones that weren't made for that purpose.

MultiPoint Server 2010 will provide a user experience very similar to a Windows 7 desktop, and offers system management tools that have been simplified for teachers so less time is spent on dealing with technology and more time is dedicated to teaching.

Microsoft plans to make MultiPoint Server 2010 available worldwide during the first half of next year. At launch, Microsoft said it will have language versions for Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

The company has not yet said what the product will cost. However, it will be available via OEMs and through Microsoft's Academic Volume Licensing program or through Authorized Education Resellers and Large Account Resellers in each geography.

Microsoft has posted a Web page for MultiPoint Server 2010 as well as an FAQ regarding the product.