The $100 laptop is here, only it's just $70

nComputing offers a thin client approach to cheap computing, with 10 rich terminals running off of a single PC. Who needs Negroponte?

The battle of the inexpensive laptops is heating up as a Korean company touts its cheapest and durable laptop ever, reports eSchool News. nComputing's CEO, Stephen Dukker, announced that his company is going to make a series of products that will turn a single computer into an interconnected network of as many as 30 machines.

In other words, instead of each student having their own CPU, nComputing has devised a technology that enables users to do everything a standard PC would do, but with a central CPU. nComputing says that this can be done without compromising the speed and functionality of the other machines connected to the network.

Unlike Negropone's $100 laptop where each computer has its own CPU, Dukker's laptops connect to a host computer and feeds off a centralized CPU. Kind of like a mainframe. It utilizes a type of standard memory card, and is connected to the network via Ethernet cables. Additional users then connect to the satellite box, which is linked to the host machine or server.

Dukker says that this laptop is not really a computer at all, which is why the cost is so low. The $70 laptop has no operating system, runs zero software applications, and uses about as much energy as a household light bulb; but, when paired with another machine, Dukker says, it provides users with a near-seamless computing experience, limited only by the output of its host.

"In the IT business, everything is driven by cost," says Dukker, who before joining nComputing was founder and CEO of eMachines, a low-cost computer manufacturer recently acquired by Gateway.

Negroponte's $100 laptop will still be a boon in developing countries, but Dukker says that advanced countries expect more computing power and won't be satisfied with basic tasks such as word processing and email.

The CPU-less computers have generated a lot of interest from educators due to their low cost and flexibility. nComputing has answered educators' call for a web-based interface designed to help teachers better manage and communicate with networked users.