What it does: Provides a solution for thin-client computing based on Linux, supporting up to ten distinct desktops (and users) from one machine.
How it will help you: According to Userful, modern PCs spend most of the day idle. Userful proposes to take this under-utilized capacity and leverage it. Connect extra monitors, keyboards, and mice, and Userfuls software enables a single Linux PC to serve ten users at once.
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Before you run through a checklist of why this wont work for your organization, realize that Userful isnt focusing on the typical office setting. Instead, Userful envisions Desktop Multiplier being used for public computing. Think of information kiosks, shared terminals at Internet cafes (which are still popular overseas), public terminals at a hospital nursing stations, or computer labs in schools. In each case, processing needs are minimal and user data isnt stored locally. Essentially, the PCs serve as a conduit between the user and either the Internet or server-based applications a perfect situation for streamlined computing.
For a more typical office setting, Desktop Multiplier could be used to provide guest access terminals or for shared Internet or application access in conference rooms.
Obstacles to Adoption: Part of why the thin-client model of computing has gone out of favor is cost. As PC prices continue to erode, how attractive will the cost savings from Userful be? Granted, administration is easier, but is that enough of a draw?
At the same time, the added horsepower on mobile devices makes them de facto mini-computers. Why not just let people access the information on your public kiosk via their mobile phones? Granted, this model has yet to gain traction, but it promises an even greater cost savings in settings where public terminals exist. One wireless server could serve innumerable users.
Developer: Userful, in Calgary, AB.
Management Team: Timothy Griffin, founder, president and CEO, previously conducted research into laptop and input device design. Daniel Griffin, VP of library services, formerly led the project to integrate LexisNexis print and electronic delivery departments and systems. Junsang Lee, director of IT solutions and solutions architect, previously held various positions at IBM-Korea, including senior IT architect, senior software account manager and senior sales specialist.