UK company VXL Instruments claims it can offer virtualisation-hungry companies an even cheaper and simpler entry into ultra-thin client PCs with its new Itona TC1330.

Thin clients are already stripped-down and low-cost devices but the £114 (plus VAT, approx $185) TC1330 probably sets a new price point for even that straitened class of computers.

The word ‘client' is almost out of place for a unit only 19 cm tall and 14.2 cm deep, which comes with nothing more eventful externally than four spare USB ports, an Ethernet port, a VGA out and an on/off switch to complement its fanless design. This is simple at its most Spartan.

The passive thermal venting and basic hardware specification all keep power drain down to around 9 watts, the company says, and aid reliability and extend its lifespan well beyond that of a conventional PC. Internally the unit is based around AMD's 466MHz Geode GX microprocessor, with 2565Mb of RAM, 32Mb flash, and running on the Linux 2.6 kernel-based Sylph OS.

"This is the year when thin client, driven by recession, improved specs, lower pricing and a growing demand from corporates for thin client solutions - and virtualisation - continues its breakthrough," says VXL's Frank Noon.

VXL describes the TC1330 as an ‘instant virtualisation' product on the grounds that it comes with VMWare's View 3.1 already installed although it is also compatible with Citrix's ICA and RDP. The company's own XLmanage software can be used for remote management.

So is that it for the £200 thin client then? For instance, Pano Logic has a rival if somewhat more expensive thin client, announced a year ago, although that is even smaller than the VXL box.

In VXL's view, the point of thin clients is to strip out every possible element the better to improve reliability and management.

"This will satisfy 90 percent of the market," said Noon. Looking at other thin client designs, "40 percent of the features are never used."

The small cost benefits of design and cost simplification worked best on larger contracts. "It's all about scale. It matters if you are buying a thousand."