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Microsoft Ships Multipoint Server 2010

Microsoft said it is shipping MultiPoint Server 2010, a multi-user computing system based on Windows meant to make technology more accessible to students in cash-strapped economies.

Announced in November, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 uses a single centralized server computer with multiple multiple monitors, keyboards, and mice hooked up, so multiple users can all use that PC, while appearing as a separate computer for each user.

"Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 is now globally available to OEMs and will be rolling out to Microsoft academic volume licensing customers on March 1," Microsoft officials said in a statement Wednesday.

It's primarily aimed at schools throughout the world -- in both developed as well as developing economies – that are often constrained by lack of funds to equip all of their students or labs with enough PCs.

The concept is familiar enough. It's called "shared resource computing" and it's how mainframes have operated for decades. However, MultiPoint Server 2010 provides each user with a full-scale Windows computing experience, including the ability to share software and files -- a far cry from the old mainframe/green screen terminals configurations of the past.

Microsoft has not specified how many users a server can handle at one time, although much of that will depend on the processor, memory and storage capacity. Terminals connect to the server via a USB connection.

Additionally, Microsoft designed the system to require little technical ability for teachers to set up and administer, and an entire configuration can be set up in as little as a few minutes, the company claims.

Microsoft has signed up several global PC makers to support and sell MultiPoint Server 2010 on their own hardware, including HP, DisplayLink, NComputing, ThinGlobal, Tritton Technologies, and Wyse Technology. In local markets, Microsoft is also working with a slew of smaller OEMs such as Positivo, Seneca Data, and Tarox, the company's statement said.

Information on how to purchase Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 and associated hardware is available on Microsoft's Web site.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.