Modern PCs use only a small fraction of their processing power and waste energy. According to NComputing, there is an answer to the malady, a new desktop virtualisation product, with a much lower per seat cost compared with competitor products from VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and Wyse.

"PCs have now reached terminal pricing phase," said CEO Stephen Dukker. "And now laptops have entered this phase as well. There has been an unbelievable increase in the power of modern PCs."

Dukker, formerly the founder of eMachines (later acquired by Gateway), feels this extra power is mostly wasted. "We are using less than 10 percent of PC resources, less than 1 percent during a normal working day." He excludes extreme gamers, scientists and mathematicians from this.

NComputing's approach to desktop virtualisation is to offer virtualisation software and hardware, which will allow up to seven users to share the 'excess power' of today's desktops for as little as £35 (approx $70) per user.

NComputing's desktop virtualisation software is installed on a host personal computer running Windows or Linux. This then sets up virtual independent desktops. The NComputing User eXtension Protocol (UXP) connects six sets of keyboards, monitors and mice, which are plugged into NComputing access devices or terminals.

Dukker insists these access terminals are not a computer as such, as there is no CPU, storage or software installed on them, and there are no moving parts, so it is rugged, durable, and easy to deploy and maintain.

Up to six access terminals can use the under-utilised hardware resources of the host PC, resulting in "the lowest possible cost for computing access."

Dukker said that these access terminals are able to offer users robust multimedia capabilities, not just running simple applications such as Word or Excel. "There are no latencies in our devices, there is no cursor lag," he told Techworld.

There are two access terminals currently on offer. The X-series is the low cost model best suited for multimedia and users within ten metres of the host PC. Connection is achieved via a standard Cat 5 cables, but they don't carry Ethernet signals, which is why the devices cannot be located further than 10 meters away. The cables do supply the power - as well as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and audio signals - to the access device. That means no separate power adapters.

The L-series meanwhile is designed for users more than ten metres away from the host PC as it connects across a standard Ethernet local-area network. It allows more users per PC (up to 30 users per PC), and has widescreen support.

By offering such a simple solution, Dukker is able to highlight the green credentials of its devices. Traditional PCs draw about 110 watts, whereas NComputing’s access devices draw only 1 to 5 watts. The company says that if you add users to a shared PC, you can reduce the energy footprint per user by as much as 99 percent. "Electricity savings alone can pay for the NComputing virtual desktops in as little as one year."

The other green benefits come from air conditioning cost savings, because the less energy consumed, the less heat is produced, further saving on company's electric bills.

In addition, with most PCs being disposed of after three to five years, NComputing claims that its virtual desktops last more than ten years. A traditional PC being thrown out also amounts to 10 kgs of waste, whereas a NComputing access devices weighs just 150 grams, which is kinder to landfill sites.

Somewhat predictably with a solution of this nature, NComputing has made great inroads in the education sector, as well as emerging markets such as Brazil, with 500,000 seats deployed (in 70 countries) since the company was launched in October 2005. However Dukker insists that NComputing is also gaining traction in non-education sectors such as call centres and data entry.