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Linux gets virtual at $59 a seat

Calgary-based virtualisation outfit Userful has released MultiSeat 4.0 which can turn a single Linux-based PC into 11 independent workstations for use in schools and businesses.

Using a handful of off-the-shelf USB peripherals, DisplayLink USB virtual graphics devices and a thin client like the HP T100, Userful reckons it has halved the cost of similar packages bringing down the initial software outlay to just $59 (£38) per seat for educational customers.

Userful says MultiSeat is the lowest-cost computing solution available with the features and performance of a full desktop computer and with each user having his own keyboard mouse and monitor.

"We have been flying under the radar, quietly taking the world by storm," bragged Tim Griffin, president of Userful. "We've already done the world's largest ever desktop virtualisation deployment, and one of the largest digital inclusion initiatives in the world. MultiSeat 4.0 represents over one-and-a-half years of development on top of a decade of shared resource computing experience.

"Userful is the perfect solution for anyone who wants the benefits of desktop virtualisation, without the price tag. It's also lower cost than netbooks, and doesn't have the same concerns around recharging, durability, theft, e-waste, warranty, or small screen size."

The company also sells Multiseat with a special educational software bundle which includes the Edubuntu operating system, iTALC classroom computer management tool, office suite, Firefox web browser, and subject-based applications for astronomy, chemistry, languages, mathematics, planning, and more. Hundreds more applications can be installed at with a click through the Software Center, a web-based repository of free Linux applications.

Claims that the cost of the hardware and software could be recovered "in a few years" on power bill savings alone, and that the system is "virtually immune from viruses" seem a little optimistic to us. Having said that, anything that weans kids away from the Microsoft monopoly is no bad thing.

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