N-computing is facing major challenge from game-changer shared resource solution from LG,in a move that is set to be welcome news to the region’s learning institutions, small and medium enterprises, especially cyber cafe operators, Korea-based electronics maker LG has partnered with Microsoft to launch a new computer which can be connected to over 20 monitors.
The launch of the PC – called U-series and billed as the world’s first built-in multi-computing desktop monitor featuring Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 – is expected to challenge n-computings dominance in the shared resource computing space and enhance access to computers in learning institutions and further bolster efforts by governments in Africa to entrench use of computers and ICTs in the learning process.
According to LG, by connecting the U-Series network monitor system to a single PC, the host’s processing power is virtualized on each monitor, creating an efficient networking solution with less hardware and lower maintenance costs.
The U-Series is based on the principle that at any one time, no one person can utilise the full capacity of one computer, therefore, multiple users can tap into the same computer as long as they have a separate monitor and keyboard.
“This technology is suitable for schools that want to establish computer laboratories to teach students computing and introduction to the Internet. Small and medium scale (SME’s) businesses such as cybercafés can also benefit as multiple users can share one PC”, said George Mudhune, LG Electronics marketing and corporate communications head for East and Central Africa, adding that basic applications like internet surfing or word processing do not require the full power of a single, dedicated PC.
The U-series PCs – which retails for $ 663 (KSh 55,000) per each complete set and to be distributed in the region by LG’s IT distributor Mustek East Africa – come with ‘Blackboard’ classroom management software for schools which can be used in teaching programs such as setting and marking exams, thereby making virtual classroom control possible.
To use the PCs, the host PC is connected to the U-Series monitors via USB cables, which combined with software, allows for redistributed computing capabilities across all connected monitors as individual U-series monitors do not need any additional software installation.
Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 is expected to help educational institutions provide more workstations to students and teachers with individualized Windows experiences at a lower total cost of ownership while the U-Series solution is designed to be simple enough for people with limited technical skills to set-up and manage a multiple monitor environment.
“Educators around the world and in Africa want the same thing: technology tools that help them and their students achieve more. As educators strive to prepare their students for the 21st century workplace, aspiring for one PC per student is understandable but not always feasible, in the context of strained budgets, a lack of available IT resources and the demand for energy efficiency.
Shared-resource computing offers a way to address these challenges,” said Mark Matunga, Education Manager at Microsoft East and Southern Africa.
Matunga said that the U-series will significantly lower hardware acquisition and ongoing maintenance costs thereby increasing access to computers in Africa where budget constraints have remained a major hurdle to technology uptake.
The U-Series comes with 19-inch class LED widescreen monitors (18.5 inches measured diagonally), which provide a bright and clear viewing experience and are ideal for multimedia applications. Each monitor is also capable of independent optimization in different languages.
“Windows Multipoint Server 2011 provides more access with lower initial set up cost and is simple to set up and manage. Its other benefits include the reduction in heat and noise in the classroom, lab or library, and an increase in space for students at their workspace, all of which helps improve the learning environment for teachers and students,” said Matunga.
The launch of the new computing solution comes at time when most of Africa’s schools are facing computer access challenges, with statistics in Kenya for instance indicating that access to computer-based learning is still a major challenge with a current ratio of 1 computer for 150 students compared to the 1 to 15 ratio for developed countries’ schools.
Coming at a time when the government and most organizations are adopting computer based-operations, the introduction of the U-series will be a reprieve especially to the education sector that is currently in the process of enhancing e-learning while government agencies will also find the technology convenient as multiple work stations can be set-up on a single PC.