Friday, August 15, 2008

Riding NComputing into Emerging-Market Schools

NComputing announced last week that it is on track to sell one million units this year. The company expects that demand in emerging markets will exceed that of the US and estimates that 35% of revenues will come from India alone by 2009. The boost in sales comes primarily from India’s educational institutions and from the proliferation of India-based resellers. NComputing’s desktop virtualization software and hardware allows seven (or more) users to work independently from one CPU, reducing the per-seat computing cost to around $175.

While low-cost laptops cater to individual consumer demand for portability and private ownership, NComputing’s solution has gained the attention of institutional buyers by addressing concerns over affordability and power consumption. Educational institutions now account for 70% of NComputing’s revenues. In a meeting with Vital Wave Consulting last week, Dukker maintained that his company’s success is based as much on a sustainable business model as on meeting customer needs. With lower per seat costs than “mainstream” PCs, NComputing’s model leaves enough money in school budgets for teacher training, service and support. According to Dukker, this allows other members of the value chain to maintain profitability and build their presence in the strategically important education segment.

This argument made sense to education officials in Macedonia; NComputing recently delivered 180,000 seats to the nation’s schools. These large-scale multi-user deployments create new opportunities for technology companies with complementary solutions. PC manufacturers, for example, can maintain their profits by deploying high-performance, higher-margin models. Educational software companies, service providers and peripheral manufacturers (e.g., monitors, keyboards) can also capitalize on these broad technology initiatives. More participants with sustainable profit margins in the education-technology value chain will ensure the longevity of solutions, build the service and support links of the value chain, and extend technology to a larger user base.

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