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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 9, 2008 at 6:00 AM

Microsoft’s Will Poole’s new gig: NComputing’s global virtualization play

Longtime Windows exec Will Poole is going to keep pushing computers into the developing world after he leaves Microsoft at the end of this month.

Poole’s becoming co-chairman and board director at NComputing, a PC virtualization company that’s getting traction overseas. His role includes serving as a sort of global ambassador in developing countries for the Redwood City, Calif.-based company, in which he’s also made an investment.

That’s not too far removed from Poole’s current role as vice president of Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential group that’s developing technology for emerging markets. Earlier he led the Windows Client and digital media groups.

“I’d met NComputing through a mutual partner in India and saw some of the great things they were doing and saw that not only is there an incredible applicability of this low-cost, power-efficient, environmentally friendly technology in low-cost and emerging markets, but it could in fact go much further,” Poole said.

Poole said he was looking for international opportunities to apply his 25 years of industry experience, including more than 12 at Microsoft.

“The real challenge that I’m looking to go after is this general question of how one effectively applies technology to the most vexing issues in global development,” Poole said. “Education is a very clear one but also skills development and training, commerce, communications, e-government – other things that we all take for granted in the developed world and are quite challenging in the less-developed world.”

NComputing was recapitalized in 2003, building on software that it spent 12 years developing. It now sells a line of software and hardware that converts a standard Windows PC into a server that can power up to 30 computing stations — basically terminals with a keyboard, display and a connector unit.

The company is positioning its systems as an alternative to cheap laptops being developed for students in developing countries. Each terminal costs as little as $70 — less than half the price of a One Laptop Per Child machines, said Chief Executive Stephen Dukker, who earlier founded PC maker eMachines.

Dukker said the company’s also making headway selling to companies in developed markets.

“We are the leading company in desktop virtualization, both on the software side and the hardware side,” he said, explaining that it’s shipped more than a million workstations and now has 5 percent to 7 percent of the K-12 workstation purchases in the U.S.

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