Galt Joint Elementary School District in Galt, Calif., took a demo Xtenda unit in early 2006 and then, during the summer, ordered and installed approximately 40 to meet the needs of two of the district's schools. The goal was to standardize one school's Windows PCs by replacing 50 aging Apple Macintosh computers. The district replaced 50 older computers at a second school.

Half Life

"We were up against trying to purchase a whole new system for each, a one-to-one replacement," Do said, explaining that the new systems he had in mind cost $1,500 apiece, so buying four would have cost $6,000. But buying one new computer and an Xtenda unit cost about $1,750.

Do also bought new monitors, mice and keyboards for the Multi Boxes, but the total price tag for four workstations was still less than half the cost of four new computers, he said. Just to be on the safe side, Galt district bought a separate license for each desktop for the Windows operating system as well as Microsoft Word.

"I'm not sure if we absolutely had to do it," Do said, noting that licenses for other applications allow them to run across the district's entire network.

Orangeburg's agreement with Microsoft allowed the district to buy remote-station-access licenses for Windows for the dumb terminals, Johnson said. For most of the district's applications, licenses are based on the number of user seats, rather than the number of CPUs, so it doesn't matter whether students are sitting at terminals or PCs.

Besides saving money on the hardware, Johnson and Do said the Xtenda units reduce labor since only the host computer needs technical attention -- the dumb terminals require no maintenance. In Orangeburg, four technicians work on computer and telecommunications technology across the district.

"Now they can spend more of their time doing preventive maintenance rather than constantly focusing on corrective maintenance," Johnson said.

If only one in every four desktops sports an actual computer instead of a dumb terminal, that means fewer opportunities for breakdowns, Do said, also acknowledging that there's a flip side of having to rely on the viability of one computer

"If one goes down," he said, "the other three can't connect."

An additional benefit the dumb terminals provide, Dukker said, is that they're invulnerable to security breaches. Unlike a thin client machine, an Xtenda Multi Box has no central processing unit, no memory and no storage.

"It's totally impervious to things like viruses, because you can't put anything in it," Dukker said.

Do plans to show the technology to officials at some of the other schools in the Galt Joint Elementary School District to see if they're interested in using it. He said he hasn't heard of any other school districts near Galt, which is about 30 miles south of Sacramento, Calif., using NComputing's technology.

Technology directors in several districts near Orangeburg plan to evaluate the Xtenda units, Johnson said.

"Some want to visit our site and see what we're doing with them," he said. "It's a bold move, and not everyone is comfortable trying to make such a move. I think a number of them are probably going to at least try some this year and see how they function for them, and then move to a larger number."

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer