I love the thin clients we rolled out: easy centralized manageability, low power consumption, and a near-desktop experience for most students has made them very cost-effective. One problem with the budget thin clients we purchased, however, is their need to launch a terminal session just for simple web browsing or jotting a quick note. While the client-server model is quite robust as well, any network or backend problems can wipe out entire classrooms and labs. Many "smart" thin clients exist with a built-in web browser, but these tend to be a bit more costly.
Enter the Asus EBOX, the recently announced desktop version of the Eee laptop. According to Electronista, these little devices should sell for under $300, feature a full-featured Linux OS (Asus' own custom Xandros distro), and use Intel's Atom processor, allowing for a remarkably green computing appliance.
These devices could obviously launch RDP sessions as needed, but would provide immediate access to the web, online databases, word processing, and similar functionality, without tying up bandwidth coming into the terminal servers or consuming processor cycles unnecessarily.
Sounds like a great compromise between built-in functionality and cost to me. Bring on the appliances, since a majority of our users simply don't need a full-featured desktop on a daily basis.