NComputing, the start-up that aims to provide cheap Internet access by allowing one PC or server to be shared by many, is set to announce Tuesday that former Microsoft executive Will Poole will join its board as co-chairman.
Poole, who left Microsoft earlier this year after more than a decade, will share the chairmanship with Stephen Dukker, the eMachines founder who has been NComputing's sole chairman and remains its chief executive.
Through its own virtualization software, the Redwood City, Calif., company allows a single server to serve up to 30 users a PC-like experience--allowing an entire classroom or business to be wired for about $175, including keyboard, monitor, software, and the hardware terminals.
In a telephone interview, Poole said he got to know NComputing as part of his final role at Microsoft, where he helped head the company's emerging markets efforts.
"I was really impressed technically with what's going on and, of course, the price speaks for itself," Poole said.
NComputing's approach takes advantage of the fact that basic computing tasks use only a fraction of the power of a standard PC or server. The result not only saves money, but also power. That's especially important in places like India where access to the grid can be limited.
There are downsides, though. Although the company's software ensures no one user will hog too many computing resources, that means that high-end tasks like serious gaming or graphics arts applications are probably out. Still, it's proved to be a good option for those in emerging markets as well as for schools here in the U.S.
Dukker said the company has deployed over 1 million seats over the past 20 months, with half of those in emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Among the company's deals is one to provide computing for every elementary and secondary school student in Macedonia. Adding Poole to the company's board, he said, is a sign of the company's maturity.
"It really is kind of a signpost of us leaving the company's adolescence," he said. Among the other tech names on NComputing's board is Advanced Micro Devices' longtime marketing chief Rob Herb.
Poole won't have an operating role, but will help guide strategic planning and serve as a global ambassador, the pair said. Poole is also taking a small stake in the company, joining its existing backers, which include two venture capital firms and a Korean company that provides rare gasses for use in computer chip manufacturing.